Aissa Issaka, a 50-year old woman living in the rural village of Todigameye, Niger, used to have to travel 40 kilometers to obtain provisions for her seven children in the season leading up to harvest. Thanks to the work of WFP and its partners, though, Aissa is now able to ‘borrow’ cereal grains from a local cereal bank developed for and managed by women in the village. Aissa will eventually pay the bank back, but at a low interest rate, and after the harvest.
By travelling no farther than the village center to procure rations, Aissa requires less help from her children in conducting and completing domestic duties. This gives her children, particularly the girls (who likely would have stayed home to help while their brothers attended class), the opportunity to enroll in and go to school.
In Niger, 49.6 percent of the population is under the age of 14 (compared to 20.2 percent in the United States), and 44 percent of these children are chronically undernourished. To combat this devastating crisis, WFP is targeting 702 particularly vulnerable schools in rural Niger, providing two hot meals every day and distributing 100 kilograms of dry rations to girls in their last two years of primary school. With this encouragement, not only did enrollment improve, but specifically the number of girls attending school increased tremendously.
Education is one of the most important steps to development – it promotes and increases literacy, improves general health, and postpones marriage and child-bearing. And, providing food to students is a proven method to boost attendance, especially among girls.
With the help of generous donors like you, WFP is able to extend its programs to a greater number of schools, thus boosting attendance throughout Niger and continuing the battle against undernutrition. Families like Aissa’s are still in urgent need of your assistance. WFP’s current mission reaches 3.3 million beneficiaries, 70 percent of whom are families with undernourished children. The World Food Program seeks to maintain this important level of aid, and with the continued help of caring individuals like you, WFP will be able to expand its reach. Thank you for your support!
The eyes of the students at the Danga Zaouni School shine each day when they receive their meal in school. Since April 2007 the school, located in the Ouallam district 140 km away from Niger’s capital Niamey, has benefitted from the World Food Program’s school meals program.
The program is especially important in this region, as poor soil and degraded land have pushed families into a daily struggle for food security. Some 59.5 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, forcing men to look for work in other regions while their wives stay home to care for the family. Children are often obliged to work or care for siblings instead of going to school.
This constant struggle for food security pushes families deeper into the vicious cycle of poverty by keeping children from obtaining an education and, thus leaving them with little opportunity for the future. Ten percent of children under five suffer from acute malnutrition and 44 percent of children suffer from chronic malnutrition.
Poor school attendance, especially among girls, contributes to Niger’s 71 percent illiteracy rate. Before the introduction of the school meals program, only a few students came to school during the harvest, and in the afternoons the school was almost empty. The children did not have the energy to come back with an empty stomach after having little or no lunch, particularly those walking long distances from neighboring villages.
Yet, important changes have occurred since WFP’s school meals program began in the region: school enrollment has gone up from 172 to 211 students, and attendance rates of students already enrolled have improved.
The benefits of the program are also reflected in the students’ marks; the year before the introduction of the school meals program, none of the students passed the final exam necessary to be admitted to middle school. Mahamadou Saidou, the director of the school, says that tests given to the students since the inception of the program already show improvements in performance.
Nationwide, the school meals program supported by WFP in Niger has proven to have a very positive influence on increasing education rates for girls, particularly in rural areas. The proportion of girls enrolled in school rose from 36 percent in 2000 to 43 percent in 2006. In schools assisted by WFP, the percentage of girls is 5 percent higher than in schools without a school meals program.
Education also has positive long-term effects: students’ health is improved; educated girls get married later and have fewer children; and educated parents are more likely to send their children to school.
Continuing this successful program that enables children to attend school and receive the nutrition they need to survive requires additional financial support. Generous individuals like you enable children to attend school and break the cycle of poverty with WFP’s assistance. Thank you for your support!
Fatouma is a widow and mother of two who receives assistance from World Food Program (WFP) cereal (grain) banks. “When my family’s cereal stocks ran out, I was able to purchase cereals from the bank at moderate prices,” says Fatouma. Towards the end of the lean season when all of her financial resources were exhausted, she was then also able to purchase cereal on credit which she hopes to pay back with her next harvest. “I am glad the cereal bank was there for me and my family when we needed it the most.”
Over 70 percent of Niger’s 13 million inhabitants live below the poverty line and are suffering greatly under the impact of the current global food crisis, just as Fatouma has. The country’s weak economy is almost entirely fueled by agriculture, which is constantly hindered by drought and locust invasion. Nearly 44 percent of children experience chronic malnutrition and one in five children in Niger does not live to see their fifth birthday.
World Food Program assistance in Niger is designed to address the root causes of poverty by promoting rural development and increasing education rates, while also responding to immediate relief needs, such as the treatment of children suffering from malnutrition. WFP supports several programs in Niger including food-for-training and food-for-work (FFW) projects to increase independent food production.
But, recently, WFP has given special attention to the impact of the global food crisis in Niger. The price of rice in Niger has risen 51 percent compared to the price average over the past five years. The increase in cost of other similar items is of particular concern to the people of Niger as grain serves as a staple of the local diet. WFP is working to combat this growing issue by setting up village-level cereal banks to ensure the availability of grain at reasonable prices. This program allows families to afford the food they need when they need it and has significantly softened the blow of the global food crisis on Nigeriens.
WFP Niger is assisting about 1.3 million people this year and plans to maintain this level of service, if not increase it, but has further financial needs to continue improving the quality of nutrition for Niger’s vulnerable populations throughout 2008. Your contribution has had an important impact on allowing Friends of the World Food Program assist WFP in initiating vital projects like village-level cereal banks, which have saved countless lives. Thank you for your continued support.
Hello GlobalGiving donors,
Thank you so much for your incredible support of our "Fight child hunger in Niger" project. Your generosity has put us well on our way to raising our goal of $50,000 to feed the children in Niger who rely on us – in fact, we are over halfway there!
I’d like to update you on the current status of our global hunger relief efforts. As you may already know, food and fuel prices around the world have soared in recent months. For this reason, the World Food Program (WFP) is now facing a $500 million shortfall.
Record level food and fuel prices, combined with climate change and decreasing food stocks, have created a so-called ‘perfect storm’: hunger is hitting the most vulnerable harder than ever and our ability to assist them is weaker than ever.
Food rations may soon be drastically reduced without additional funds. This means that children currently relying on WFP for their one hot meal a day may be forced to go without. WFP needs your help now to continue to reach those most at risk.
Josette Sheeran, WFP Executive Director, explains that “Of particular concern is the emergence of what I call the new face of hunger – hunger characterized by markets full of food with scores of people simply unable to afford it.”
Just as demands are increasing, WFP is able to purchase much less than it could even six months ago for the same contribution. But we cannot be discouraged by these challenges. Remember that for just 25 cents, WFP can provide a meal to a child in school.
The World Food Program appreciates your ongoing support to help us continue to save lives and provide hope to those who need it most. Any additional gift you can give will help us reach even more children.
Thank you so much!
President and CEO
Friends of the World Food Program
Hot Meals Entice Niger's Nomadic Children into Schools - A story from the field.
Akarana, Niger - The wandering lifestyle of Niger's nomads need not rule out a steady education for their children thanks to WFP's school feeding programme. Marcus Prior reports.
“You do know it’s not term time?” asked my colleague Nafiou Issiaka as we piled into cars at the WFP office in Tahoua.
Not term time? Not term time?!
How on earth were we supposed to show our French journalist visitor the dramatic impact on attendance rates and learning of WFP’s school feeding programme in Niger if there were no students at all at school? What were we going to show him? An empty classroom and a disused kitchen? My heart sank.
But the primary school at Akarana, a tiny hamlet of mud and straw dwellings set in a sea of sand some 60 kilometres off the nearest decent road, was unlike any other I had visited.
As we arrived, a crowd of children lined up to one side of the car, all screaming ‘PAM!* PAM! PAM!" and clapping their hands in welcome.
School, it seemed, was very much in. Except it was out.
Akarana is a school for the children of families who continue to pursue a life of nomadic pastoralism.
For nine months of the year, the children are quite literally left behind to attend school, while their parents attend to the business of managing their livestock, often many hundreds of miles away in the bush.
During the long holidays, the pupils rejoin their family in their nomadic existence.
Even the head, Abdullahi Hamed Ibrahim, profits every year from the three-month break to gather his own family together on camel and horseback and venture out into the desert to join his wandering brothers.
We arrived during the Easter school holiday, but at least 60 of the 133 students were still being looked after by the head and his small team.
A rudimentary dormitory was home to those who were not housed with local families.
Almost half the students are girls and all pupils wanting to go on to secondary education were successful in their exams.
A proper education is clearly highly prized within the community.
Crucially, parents are able to leave their children at Akarana for lengthy periods for one reason, and one reason alone – WFP provides the school with enough food to ensure three hot meals per day to every child, term-time or not.
For the nomads, if there were no school meals for their children, there would be no schools.
“All the food we distribute here comes from WFP,” said the head, pointing out spoons, plates and two large cooking vats which are also provided by the organisation.
The children wolfed down their lunch before gathering under the shade of the schoolyard trees to play traditional games of ‘catch’ using small stones or simply to idle the time away.
It was the holidays and everyone seemed content. But Akarana is poor – very poor.
Last year the villagers received a general distribution of food from WFP because they had been driven right to the edge by the impact of drought and the locust invasions of 2004 which left their traditional grazing lands stripped bare.
Cattle and other livestock simply keeled over and died.
Prices on the market for their enfeebled animals plummeted.
The distribution was a welcome answer to their prayers.
This year, with pasture more plentiful, their animals are stronger and likely to fetch a better price on the market.
The villagers remain very concerned that the hunger season will again be tough, but they are more confident about prospects than at the same time last year.
Amidst the annual struggle to make ends meet, the school at Akarana is a symbol of hope; a starting point from which education and knowledge offer the best chance of escape from the cycle of poverty.
[PAM – Programme Alimentaire Mondial, the French title by which the World Food Programme is known in some countries.]
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