A Message from Bess in Niger

To: RAIN Partners and Supporters

A Message from Executive Director Bess Palmisciano in Niger

AGADEZ – October, 2011

Right now, the world news of Niger is all about former Libyan officials hiding somewhere in the desert.  The true story, though, is in the food crisis here.  Last year we had excellent rains, and this year the season started well. However, the rains were not consistent.  Crops and grasses began to grow, then died.  Now we have large areas in crisis. In the south, crops have failed, while in much of the north there is not enough pasture for animal herds.

I have traveled a bit in the Agadez region and seen the problems for myself.  November is approaching, and still nomadic schools are not open because there is no food for the students.  We have asked the World Food Program for help, but they are not giving to schools this year – all their efforts are focused on crisis response. We don’t argue with responding to the crisis, but the school food program is so effective — giving food to schools provides assurance of it getting to the most vulnerable — Niger’s children.

Here is some of what I’ve seen in the past couple of weeks.

• Ingall, a town in the western part of Agadez, has a middle school meant to serve the region’s nomadic children.  Of the 265 children enrolled this year, 40 dropped out in the first week, because this state-run boarding school has no food and no dormitories.  They have gone home to their families, who are likely not able to provide for them.

• Nomadic communities with middle school age children are bringing them to Agadez in hopes of finding a way to provide for them there. We are working with a group of 40 students from Foudouk and Teyiss.  I visited them a few days ago.  Here is their story:  The children spent 12 hours walking to Agadez. Parents are taking turns coming to Agadezin two-week rotations to care for the children. They have contributed the funds to rent a place for the children to stay. Mothers spent a month in the bush gathering firewood so the children would have cooking fuel.   The space rented by the parents provides only one room for all the children to share. They’ve come to Agadez with mats and their school bags, but little else.  They are asking aid organizations to give them some tents to sleep in. RAIN has pledged to provide food for the school year.

Stories such as these are too numerous to relate.  RAIN can help with providing food to the most needy schools.  Having this food will not only provide relief to children and families, it will allow education to begin. With schools open we stand ready to install school gardens for long-term hunger solutions, ready for mentors to teach practical skills, ready to provide health education.

We hope you will support RAIN in responding to this crisis.  We know sustainable programs are the path to better futures; those efforts need to be built with people who have the strength and encouragement of daily food.

Please feel free to share this message with others who might help. 

–  Bess