Niger: Families flee home villages, resort to dangerous work

Drought and failed harvests across Africa’s Sahel region have left many communities without a source of food, forcing families to flee in search of work elsewhere. Many times, what they find is unsafe and inadequate to provide for their needs as the hunger crisis persists.

Story and photos by Adel Sarkozi, World Vision Niger.
Published July 12, 2012 at 12:00am PDT

“We had no crops last year,” says Hadi Odan, who holds her 1-year-old child.

She lives in a makeshift camp near the mines. She came with her husband from a far-away village, where they had no way of coping with the ongoing hunger crisis that has devastated much of West Africa.

Hadi’s husband works in the mines, and Hadi tries to sell traditional mats to earn a living. Even so, sometimes they only eat at dinner.

They’ve been living in the small makeshift camp with other families from their village for over eight months. Some have started returning as the rainy season sets in so that they can start planting, with the hope of a better harvest this year.

Others wish to return — but with little money earned at the mines, they feel ashamed to go back to their communities.

Livelihoods in peril

The most important sources of revenue in the Komabangou area of Niger used to be farms and paddy fields where people grow millet, sorghum, beans, and rice.

Unfortunately, these sources cannot cover people’s needs any longer. Therefore, some travel to neighboring countries in search of work, while others, like Hadi’s husband, work in mines as a means of survival.

These children are covered with mine dust, but it's the only source of work their parents have for now.Most of the time, children accompany their parents to the mines, meaning that they’re forced to abandon school. Due to the food crisis this year, there are more people coming from neighboring communities in search of work in the mines, as means of survival disappear back in their villages.

They toil in harsh conditions. The work is dangerous, and the tunnels inside the mines collapse on a regular basis. The average life expectancy of a miner is just 45 years.

World Vision’s response

It’s a line of work that reflects the level of desperation among families suffering from the ongoing drought and hunger crisis in Niger.

World Vision has programs in this region of the country, covering 15 villages with more than 36,000 people. Through sponsorship, our teams conduct initiatives in areas such as education, water and sanitation, and community-based management of acute malnutrition.

World Vision is also responding to the hunger crisis elsewhere across the Sahel region of Africa, coordinating interventions like emergency food aid, agricultural assistance, medical care, clean water, and more.

In Niger’s Komabangou region, World Vision plans to implement a market gardening project over the next year as a means to prevent children from suffering from malnutrition — and to help provide communities with access to food throughout the year, even during the hungry months after the last harvest and before the next rainy season.

Learn more

View a photo blog containing images of families who have fled to a makeshift camp in Niger’s capital, searching for work and food.

Read this PBS article about the hunger crisis in Niger and across the Sahel region.

Three ways you can help

Please pray for families like Hadi, her husband, and child, who face dire conditions at the hands of the failed harvest, drought, and food crisis. Pray that rains will return to this region, that this year would bring a better harvest, and that, in the meantime, the international community will hear the cries for help from those who are suffering.

Make a one-time donation to help provide life-saving food and care to hungry children and families in places like Niger. Your gift will help us deliver interventions like emergency food aid, nutritional support, agricultural assistance, clean water, basic medical care, and more.

Sponsor a child in Niger. Sponsorship is the best way to help a child, family, and entire community cope with a disaster like the ongoing hunger crisis. Your love and support will help establish a safety net through basics like nutritious food, clean water, education, medical care, safe shelter, and more.