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Ciara's story: My first day on the ground in Niger 

Ciara Hogan | 23 January 2018 | 1 Comment

Concern’s Programme Support Officer Ciara Hogan picks up where she left off last week and takes us through her very first day working on the ground in Niger.

Photo of Ciara Hogan. Photo by Ciara Hogan/Concern Worldwide.

Early risers

An unexpected, early start was in store for my first day on the job with Concern in Niger. We took to the road for eight hours to reach Tahoua, one of the areas that Concern works in, 550 kms north of the capital, Niamey. Driving through the Nigerien countryside I couldn’t help but be struck by the incredible resilience and resourcefulness that the people here need just to survive. The 40 shades of Irish green was replaced by vast expanses of sand and dry scrub. 80% of people in Niger live rurally, making their living from local natural resources in the harshest of conditions.

First glimpse

In Tahoua, the Concern team met with local community leaders. We discussed progress and the problems in relation to the nutrition and health activities which Concern supports. I also had the opportunity to meet Zouleha, a mother, and one of the many people Concern is here to support.

Zouleha with her 12 month old twins; Hassana and Ouesseina. Photo by Concern Worldwide.

Zouleha is mum to Hassana and Ouesseina, 12 month old twins who had come to the Concern clinic to receive treatment for malnutrition

Malnutrition is a massive problem here in Niger, more than one in ten children suffer from acute malnutrition.

Hassana and Ouesseina’s case was not unusual. Three out of five households struggle to meet their basic food needs for almost five months of the year. I had my first glimpse of what that really means when I spoke with Zouleha and learned about her life. She had walked for over an hour to get to the health centre. Her niece came with her to help, missing a day of school.

The members of Zouleha’s family eat only once a day and her one year-old twins weighed little over the weight of a healthy new-born baby when they arrived.

In addition to their daily meal, Zouleha breastfeeds the twins, but by a year old they should be growing at a rapid pace. Breastmilk and one small meal is simply not enough. With Concern’s support, Zouleha’s twins are receiving the care and nutritional support they need to recover and develop as they should. By attending the health centre every week, Zouleha also receives education on helping to prevent malnutrition by improving hygiene and feeding practices at home.

Leaving no one behind

Zouleha’s story is of course only one story of survival in Niger, and represents only one manifestation of poverty; malnutrition. Concern’s vision to leave no one behind and reach the most vulnerable people to transform their lives, means that here in Niger we work to address not just malnutrition but other factors that perpetuate the cycle of poverty including food security and livelihoods, education, health and gender equality.

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