Mark Bulpitt, Head of Emergencies, blogs from Niger.
This morning didn’t start quite as I expected, it rained and it poured and the car I was travelling in had to navigate slowly through a fair amount of knee-deep brown water to reach our destination, Isame, a community supported by World Vision child sponsorship.
The start of the rainy season is very welcome, as not enough rain is one of the key causes of this food crisis. However, while this rain is good in the long-term, immediately it only makes life more difficult here. It hasn’t rained here in a long time, making the ground far too firm to absorb this rain. The result is surface flooding in many places, which makes a trip to a health and feeding centre increasingly difficult. Further flooding may make it impossible, there is a race against time.
My trip today is filled with these contrasts, I’ve seen so many things that present hope for the future here in Niger, but the situation right now still remains desperate.
Despite these difficulties though, the rain brings optimism for many people in Isame. None more so than Mariama, an amazing woman, who is the president of the gardening committee here. Right now is the ‘hungry season’ in Niger, the time between harvests when many of last years crops have been eaten or sold and the next crop to replenish this deficit is still some way off. Mariama explained to me how this rain means they will be able to begin planting soon, though the harvest won’t be for several more months. She also told me how World Vision supplies the seeds to her committee, because they are very expensive, as well as teaching her to grow new crops that will provide better nutrition and withstand droughts more effectively in the future.
After driving through more murky water we reached a World Vision health centre that was built a few years ago and made possible by World Vision child sponsors. This health centre provides vital services for 66 villages with around 13,500 people. Since the crisis here began this health centre has also become a feeding centre, caring for malnourished children and distributing emergency food to the community with help from the World Food Programme and UNICEF. The health centre manager told me that the children in this area were stronger to face the food crisis because of World Vision’s previous support.
Earlier this week I visited a different health and feeding centre in another region where I came face to face with some of the children worst affected by this food crisis (read the story here). I saw some of World Vision’s immediate response work and I was so pleased to see malnourished children being brought back to health. Today I got to see a bit more of the wider picture, visiting some of World Vision’s longer term projects. It was great to see the dedication of World Vision and their staff to seeing lasting change here in Niger.
Despite the positive work I have seen today, the rain will make it more difficult for malnourished children to reach help, and though planting will start soon, people here still have several months to wait before they can harvest any food. The immediate situation here is still critical and the people of Niger need your help to ensure that their children survive this hungry season and make it to the harvest.
If you want to be part of our immediate response you can donate http://www.worldvision.org.uk to our West Africa Appeal, all donations will be matched £ for £ by the British Government so your money will go twice as far.