The World Food Program is responding to rising hunger and malnutrition as more and more people leave their homes in search of safety
Three years ago, armed groups attacked Bintou’s village in northeastern Nigeria, demolishing her home and killing many family members.
The 25 year old mother was lucky. She and her four children fled and crossed the Komadougou into southern Niger, just a few kilometers away. They found refuge in the south-eastern Diffa region of the country.
“When we got here, the kids were weak and dehydrated,” says Bintou. “I was afraid they were going to die and I lost hope.”
Instead, a few days later, she and her children received WFP support – fortified grains, legumes, oil, salt, and dietary supplements.
Bintou is one of the thousands of displaced people receiving such assistance in Niger, thanks in part to the generous support of the EU’s Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Department (ECHO) throughout 2020.
The funding targets four of Niger’s eight regions and is a lifeline for people at extreme risk who are constantly suffering from a mix of shocks, including climate change and the socio-economic impact of COVID-19, while conflicts on the border between Burkina Faso unfold and tighten Mali.
A November report found that 3.7 million people were food unsafe in the three countries that make up the Central Sahel region. the vast strip of Africa that runs south of the Sahara between the Atlantic and the Red Sea, where 80 percent of the agricultural land has been degraded. That number is expected to rise to 5.4 million from June to August.
“Last year was particularly challenging as the COVID-19 pandemic, floods, a difficult lean season and uncertainty created additional emergencies across the country,” said Sory Ouane, WFP representative and country director for Niger. “As usual, ECHO funding has gone a long way towards saving thousands of people affected by hunger and conflict.”
For Bintou and her family, the support was life changing. They have regained their health since arriving in Diffa four months ago in distress.
“I can smile again,” says Bintou. “Thanks to the emergency school canteens set up by the WFP, my children go to school. This help is vital to my family. “
Like Bintou, Yerima shouldered trauma. Four years ago, the 47-year-old trader lost his wife in an armed attack. He and his two daughters escaped, fled their home near the Nigerian border with Nigeria, and left all their belongings behind.
“We ended up in the Nguelewa refugee camp [in Diffa]”He says.” The three of us, like hundreds of other families, received nutrition support from WFP. “
But days later, says Yerima, the Nguelewa camp was attacked by two suicide bombers. Four people were killed, 39 women and children were abducted.
After the camp was evacuated, Yerima and his children were transferred to a safer camp in the area. His teenage girls have returned to school where a WFP-supported school feeding program provides them with nutritious meals that also serve as an incentive to study.
“It’s a rebirth for my family,” says Yerima. “And I pray for a long and lasting peace so that our children do not experience the horrors we have experienced.”
Robbed by bandits
Alirou shares Yerima’s hopes. He spent his entire life in the state of Sokoto in northwestern Nigeria – until May 2019. “I fled the insecurity in my hometown,” he says. “Armed attacks became so common in our community that we fell asleep with fear.”
One evening after bandits robbed him of all of his possessions, he and his two wives and seven children found refuge in Dankano in the Nigerian region of Maradi, where an elderly resident agreed to take in his family.
Sani is grateful for the support of the WFP. “I don’t know how long this situation will last, but I pray that peace will return to my country and the world,” he says, “so that we can return to our normal lives with our loved ones.”
Support from the World Food Program and the EU serves to stabilize and improve the food and nutrition security of people who are on the edge in Niger, while at the same time strengthening people’s resilience to shocks.
Learn more about the work of the WFP in Niger