An Annotated & Illustrated Collection of Worldwide Links to Mythologies,
Fairy Tales & Folklore, Sacred Arts & Sacred Traditions
by Kathleen Jenks, Ph.D.



Page 2 of 2

Note: click here for Niger: Page One

Thursday-Friday night, 18-19 August 2005, 1:12am
Author's Note:
Since I would not like to see this small, abused nation defined by the famine of 2005, but since I also do not wish the famine forgotten by those world leaders and wealthy multi-national corporations who have the power and, hopefully, the wisdom and compassion, to prevent such insanity in the future, I have created this separate page for the famine...


Courtesy of UNICEF
From Voice of America [see below]

This page from Wikipedia looks at the current famine -- here are excerpts:
The 2005 Niger food crisis is a severe but localized food security crisis in the regions of northern Maradi, Tahoua, Tillabéri, and Zinder of Niger. It was caused by an early end to the 2004 rains, desert locust damage to some pasture lands, high food prices, and chronic poverty. In the affected area, 2.4 million of 3.6 million people are considered highly vulnerable to food insecurity....The crisis had long been predicted [after] swarms of locusts consumed nearly 100 per cent of the crops in some parts of Niger during the 2004 agricultural season. In other areas, insufficient rainfall resulted in excpetionally poor harvests and dry pastures affecting both farmers and livestock breeders....

...An increase in food prices is fuelling the food crisis, especially in Niger, where millions of people are facing risk of food shortages and outright starvation.

In the most affected areas of Niger, access to food staples is becoming increasingly difficult and severe child malnutrition is reported to be on the rise....

...The food shortage impacts some 3.3 million people óincluding 800,000 children under age fiveó in some 3,815 villages.  Officials estimate cereal deficits at 223,448 tons and livestock feed deficits at 4,642,219 tons.

Although rains began early this year and have fallen regularly, initially inspiring hope for a better agricultural season, relief will not come before the harvest in October. Villagers are just now entering into the critical period known as the lean season ó the months when food stocks are at their lowest. It is also the moment when farm workers need more caloric energy in order to cultivate their fields, since most of the agrarian labour in Niger is performed manually.
Joe De Capua filed this report on Niger's famine on 28 July 2005 for the Voice of America.  Here are some excerpts:
 ...Kari Adjibade, UNICEFís representative in Niger, says children are most affected by the famine there.  "They are the most vulnerable to food shortage. That has a direct impact on their development, including brain development. Thatís the reason why we should pay particular attention to them," he says.  Adults, Mr. Adjibade says, fare better, longer in famine conditions.
Dr. Tektonidis says besides suffering from severe malnutrition, many children face disease as well....He says health workers now have a specific treatment that works very well in malnourished children.  "Thereís a very special product that weíre using now that came out in the last five years.  Itís really a simple product based on peanut butter and dried skim milk, sugar and oil and a special mineral mineral/vitamin mix specially designed for malnourished children. And this is the mainstay now of treatment. Itís revolutionized the treatment of severe malnutrition because itís permitted us to treat many more people by treating them on an out-patient basis and only treating the severest ones on an in-patient basis," he says....

...Warnings about an impending famine were issued by various groups and agencies last October. But the response was not enough to prevent the crisis.  Dr. Tektonidis says unfortunately the famine in Niger isnít the first time response to an emergency has been slow.

"Itís always slow, thatís the problem. Itís always slow. Between the time that the alert is given, between the time money is bled out so that the WFP can get its budget filled, thereís always a delay. Itís worse in some situations. Here, Niger is a neglected country.  (In) Ethiopia, theyíve learned how to respond quickly. They have a better system to publicize and get the media there quickly. But here itís neglected and its happened later.  But we see this all the time because thereís no real emergency stock ready to intervene quickly.  And thereís always a delay between the time the journalists come, they ask for more money, the people watch TV and they start pressuring their governments," he says.

Meanwhile, UNICEFís representative says long-term answers to prevent famine in Niger include modern farming and irrigation techniques, population control and empowering women through income generating projects.

He says, "In this traditional society where the men own everything, itís a patriarchal society, the women donít get rights to land. They donít get access to the revenue of the family. Thatís the reason why UNICEF is doing what we call empower a woman, to give them means for their own development...."

Mother and Baby in Niger Feeding Center (BBC)
This is Hilary Andersson's 20 July 2005 report for the BBC.  It includes links to other relevant news stories (e.g., an aid worker's diary) as well as to photos and video.
Again from the BBC is a "Food Crisis Timeline."  Here is the most chilling entry:
7 July 2005

Hundreds of people are reported to be fleeing hunger in Niger and crossing the border into Nigeria.  The government still plays down the scale of the crisis, saying it should not be "politicised".  The official in charge of food aid, Seydou Bakary, tells the AFP news agency: "We should be cautious not to exaggerate the situation - there is chronic malnutrition throughout the country, even during the most productive harvests."

This is a report from the BBC's Idy Barou covering some of the underlying causes of Niger's chronic poverty and 2005's famine.  Excerpts:
...The government has rejected calls to distribute free food to the hungry and has downplayed the extent of the food crisis.  A journalist with the state-owned Sahel newspaper was even suspended from her job for reporting on the situation in Zinder.

Government critics have condemned its lack of action, saying that the crisis was widely predicted since last year, giving the authorities ample time to prepare.

Tahoua regional health commissioner Seydou Hikoy, is looking beyond this year's food shortages.  "The government needs more than one-off food assistance for the malnourished," he says.  "Food crises have become a recurrent phenomenon in arid areas like Tahoua and we need a long-term programme of poverty and famine relief."

He urges the government and donors to expand irrigated farming to help Niger's population "bridge the gap" between rainy seasons and cope with a year of poor rains, which at the moment can prove fatal....
From New Scientist magazine, a brief summary of the famine and the price of delay:
...In the days of the first appeal [autumn 2004], just $1 per day per individual could have offset crisis. But now it will take $80 to save each starving person.

UK charity Oxfam reported that 3.6 million people Ė one-third of Nigerís population Ė are facing food shortages. The UN estimates that 150,000 children are suffering from severe starvation and Egeland estimates that thousands of children are dying.

Good rains have already begun to fall, though the country lacks seeds to plant because of 2004ís disastrous harvest. The UN has also warned that the locusts might return to ravage some of the much awaited 2005 harvest.

Food for sale at a market in Maradi, Niger, is too expensive for farmers whose incomes plummeted because of  the drought (BBC),12128,1536906,00.html
Finally, from London's 27 July 2005 Guardian comes James Morris' hardhitting "Stop the hunger horror tour: Debt relief is good, but means little to a child who is starving right now."  Morris is the executive director of the United Nations World Food Programme and is worth quoting at length because of his eloquent focus on larger African issues:
...At the World Food Programme (WFP), we are confronted with this misery of hunger every day. Niger is not an island of desperation in Africa, it is part of a sea of problems across the continent. In neighbouring countries such as Mauritania and Mali it is possible to find equally malnourished children whose lives have also been blighted by the combination of the worst locust invasion in 15 years and a devastating drought.

The horrible irony for these countries is that they are at peace, not at war. They are not ruled by tyrants, or being fought over for valuable natural resources. Their single misfortune is to be afflicted by a grinding poverty unseen by the outside world.

We have warned for months about the problems in Mauritania and Mali, as with Niger, but the world can only cope with so much misery and the TV cameras' random gaze has yet to fall on these struggling nations. If one lesson was learned from Ethiopia's disastrous famine in the 1980s, it was that the world should listen to the early warnings and respond promptly.

A slow response is costly not just in terms of lives, but in terms of the amount needed to rebuild the livelihoods of the afflicted. In Niger, communities have been forced to sell off their precious herds of cattle.

Perhaps now is the time to repeat our warnings about other growing crises that have been ignored. In the Bhar-el-Ghazal region of southern Sudan, where up to 70,000 people died in 1998, there are again worrying signs of severe food shortages. In southern Africa, where drought and HIV infection are working in a deadly combination, we estimate that 7-10 million people could need food aid by the end of the year. Ethiopia and Eritrea are also under threat.

As with Niger, the relief operations in these areas have not received the necessary funding. Nobody should be shocked if, in a few months' time, journalists feel inclined to point their cameras towards Sudan and southern Africa and expose once again what Sir Bob Geldof has called the pornography of African poverty.

Britain has done Africa a huge favour in its push to relieve the burden of debt. But debt relief means very little to a starving child who needs food now. We must not forget the millions in Africa who are so poor and so dispossessed that their immediate survival is already beyond these noble interventions.  Britain responded quickly to Niger's problems, but most other donor nations did not.

That the crisis in Niger was emerging at the time the popstars took to the stage at Live 8 and the politicians began gathering in Gleneagles demonstrates that Africa's problems are more than just developmental. Whatever we do, we need a "food first" policy that ensures better nutrition for the poorest African families. Without it, they can hardly hope to take advantage of debt relief and development aid.

In Niger, the aid is now flooding in, but the fact that the world can be moved only by graphic images of suffering is nothing to celebrate. Many of the children who featured in the news reports are already beyond help.

The time has come to set our sights higher. There are more creeping emergencies in Africa that have the potential to become as dire as that in Niger. If humanitarian agencies warn of impending problems, then action must follow immediately. It is not acceptable to wait for another grotesque parade of starving children before governments are moved to help. This show has toured Africa for too long. Let us work together to ensure that Niger is the final curtain call.
This report -- and the next four from -- are taken from various sources.  This one was published in The Christian Science Monitor, 1 August 2005: "Hunger Is Spreading in Africa" by Abraham McLaughlin and Christian Allen Purefoy.
This is "On Front Line of Niger's War on Hunger, UN Boosts Emergency Medical Response" from the UN News Centre on Wednesday 03 August 2005.
From 5 August 2005 comes "Malnutrition Is Ravaging Niger's Children" by Michael Wines from the New York Times.
In an appalling example of political blindness to the reality of human suffering, this is from 10 August 2005 in London's Guadian: "Niger President Denies Famine."  Here is a single, shocking sentence:
The president of Niger has denied reports that the country is facing a famine, saying his people "look well-fed"....
This is a translation of a French language article, "Niger: Reasons for a Disaster" by Nathalie Funès in Le Nouvel Observateur from the week of Thursday 11 August 2005.  It is a sickening report on greed and ineptitude.  A few excerpts from a lengthy and powerful article:
The livestock eat too much sand. There aren't enough roots, stems, leaves. Every morning, 38-year-old Harouna Abdouzana, a farmer of Haoussa ethnicity, leads his village's flock out to where the ground is a little less dry. But the cows and the sheep are tired. Their ribs sticking out, their muscles eaten away, their bellies full of sand, they collapse one after the other. Last year, a pretty three-year-old heifer sold for 85,000 CFA francs (130 Euros) on the market. "With that, I bought 5 sacks of millet and we held on for the break between the two harvests," Harouna recounts. Now, the animals are in such bad condition, they're sold off.

The other day, a neighbor came back from the market heart-broken. He hadn't been able to get more than 5,000 CFA francs (7.60 Euros) for his "fattest" cow, which had nothing more than her skin covering her bones. Barely enough to return with a tia (a small measure) of grain. In Hanou, Harouna's village, a hundred kilometers from Maradi, south of Niger, the reckoning is quickly completed. The last harvest was half as good as usual. The banco (dried earth) granaries have been empty for a long time. Not a single grain of millet, sorghum, or cow-pea. Families have sold their bicycle, their plow, to buy a little grain. Others have eaten their seed. The luckiest are able to maintain one meal a day. The most unlucky, as always when food is scarce, are the children. The last few weeks, six children have died in Hanou. And the month of August, the month of the big rains, when malaria crises and infections are often deadly, has just begun....

..."The whole subsistence economy is based on what we call the terms of trade," explains Hélène Agnelli, the Action against Hunger coordinator in Niamey. "How many sheep and goats are needed to obtain a 100 kilo sack of millet? That's what measures purchasing power. Now the price of livestock - too sick, too skinny - has collapsed, while the price of cereals has exploded. That meant quite simply that many no longer had the means to buy themselves food." By the end of June, a sack of millet had reached 30,000 CFA francs (46 Euros), a historic record. Double what it cost last year. Some on the Maradi market are still rubbing their hands about it. Here the food crisis seems well distant. The stalls overflow with cereals, onions, peanuts, poultry ... Forty-four-year-old Bouzou Ditbiamaradi, with a gold-plated watch, green djellaba, and a business man's pot belly, is pleased with himself. He's had a good year. In the spring, when "La Flamme," the local newspaper, announced that "famine is knocking on the doors north of Maradi" and that 20,000 children in the region were "threatened with kwarshiorkor and nutrition problems," he bought 50 tons of millet in the country for 10,000 CFA francs (15 euros) a sack. And then he waited quietly for prices to rise. "They always go up when it doesn't rain," he explains, his smile reaching up to his ears. He just resold the sacks for more than double their purchase price. That's what's called speculation. It is estimated that around 13,000 tons of millet have stayed in Maradi's rich merchants' warehouses for months. Across the Nigerian border the sale prices are even more interesting....

[Note: to keep up with future reports on Niger and elsewhere, I strongly recommend getting on the daily e-mail list from   I have long found them a most reliable source of news often not reported until months, even years later, by TV networks.]
FYI: Google links for those who wish to investigate further:

Note: click here for Niger: Page One



Sub-Sahara: General
Sub-Saharan Folklore
Sub-Saharan Sacred Arts

Sub-Saharan Countries and Peoples:

Niger I: The Country

Niger II: Famine 2005

Songhay People of Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger,  & Nigeria

Hausa People of Niger and Nigeria
& Fulani People of Mali and Niger

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Copyright 2005 by Kathleen Jenks, Ph.D.
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Page begun: 1am-ish, 31 July 2005.
Moved to its own page: 18-19 August 2005.
Launched: 31 August 2005