Monday, June 20, 2005


Readers of this Blog know that I have talked about Plan before. On June 15th I wrote about the efforts of Plan to help folks in Haiti. Now I would like to say something about Plan's work in Niger.

Plan is also assisting locust plague victims in Niger. In 2004 the Tillabery region of Northern Niger suffered from locust plagues that decimated crops and further compounded the effects of the year's drought. They estimated that 3.5 million people will face food shortages this year in the Sahel region of West Africa, and the region was devastated last year by the "worst locust invasion in 15 years, resulting in vast destruction of staple crops due to be harvested, including maize, sorghum and millet."

Realizing the suffering this could cause in the second poorest country in the world, Plan has been working in Niger since 1996. Currently, at the requests from local and national government they are working to improve food security in 11 villages in the Tillabery Region. In these villages there are working with approximately 3,111 families, but focusing on providing relief nutrition to approximately 7,000 children.

In partnership with local organizations, Plan will begin emergency food relief operations will begin as soon as feasible. The local organizations that will partner with Plan in this project are women's groups, school management committees and the government.

Plan intends to distribute micronutrients (vitamins - Okay, so I had to go to the dictionary to look up "micronutrients) to primary school children through schools and health centers in order to supplement protein, iron, zinc and other vitamins to children.

Lunch meals will be prepared and served daily at school by community volunteers organized and assisted by Plan. In this way, the organization hopes to encourage families to keep their children at school as well as providing urgently needed food supplements to the children.

Mobile cooking demonstrations will provide nutrition education and help families to identify moderate malnourished children and set up a reference system for severely malnourished children.

Plan is working closely with the development committees in each village, which are responsible for the management and storage of cereals. And as mentioned before, Plan is also working closely with the villages' women's groups that will be responsible for the preparation of meals for primary schools.

All of these efforts will be further coordinated with local district authorities, the World Food Program and other UN agencies.

In addition to the assistance being provided to the victims of the locust plague, Plan is assistance with well development in Niger. Plan's web site states "The Sahelian-Saharan region of Africa is one of the driest regions in the world with Niger the driest country in the area, with only 800mm of rainfall a year and only one permanent river."

With only around 43% of the population having access to potable water (and only about 36% in the rural areas) the shortage of water is a major obstacle for development in Niger. Quite often the sources of available safe water is a great distance from peoples' homes and "women and girls spend hours collecting water for their families every day." Plan says that families often have to choose between sending their daughters to school and sending them to fetch their vital water supplies.

Because open wells are the main source of water in rural areas the water is often contaminated and unfit for human consumption.

Plan has initiated a project that aims to ensure access to clean water for 1,300 people in Doukou Sarou village in Tillabery Region, where the organization says there is currently no local source of clean water.

The project will include:

- Drilling a borehole and constructing a hand-pump in Doukou Sarou Village
- Electing and training a Water Management Committee to represent community members and to oversee the project and the future maintenance of the water point
- Selecting and training a pump monitor who will be responsible for maintaining the water point
- Training committee members to organize hygiene education training sessions
- Organization of public awareness sessions
on health and hygiene, including street theatre and musical

The local community will be involved in this project from the beginning through a Local Development Committee that will oversee the process. Plan also believes that involving local people in the "hygiene training sessions, will help to bring a sense of community ownership to the project and ensure its future success."

A type of pump was chosen for the well that will make the project sustainable because the communities can easily maintain it. A small fee will be charged the community members for the use of the well. These fees will create a fund to pay the pump monitor and any technicians required, and also to purchase any spare parts required in the future.

More details on Plans projects in Niger can be found at:

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