“My daughter returns from far away, a true miracle’
by Niandou Ibrahim, May 17, 2013
"My daughter returns from far away, a true miracle," repeats Adama Issaka without ceasing. She caresses and holds her daughter Firdaoussou tightly. They look each other in the eyes for a long time then both break out in laughter.
Firdaoussou is 2 years old and really has returned from far away. She has spent nearly half of her life fighting death from malnutrition. She won this fight and now gets to celebrate it every day with her mother in this touching complicity, imbued with smiles, winks and tenderness.
Firdaoussou was born in the village of Bongoukoirey, in the TillabÃ©ry region of Niger. She was raised by her mother alone while her father was in exile somewhere in CÃ´te d'Ivoire. The little girl grew normally during the first 10 months of her life,breastfed by her mother. It was in March 2012 when Firdaoussou started suffering from malnutrition at less than a year of age.
"A big number of children fell ill, wasted away and died. I was desperate for a moment. Toward the month of August I thought Firdaoussou was going to die. She had lost so much weight," remembersIssaka with sadness.
She was not alone: malnutrition was widespread across the region due to a food crisis. A joint press release issued by the government of Niger, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and several international aid agencies rang the alarm bell in March 2012 saying:
The situation of the people, especially of the women and children, is quickly getting worse. The combination of a totality of factors, among them the agricultural and pasture deficits of the previous season, the price explosion of staple food, the depreciation of cattle and the rising levels of indebtedness of the householdshave considerably weakened the revenues and the access to nutrition of many families. For these people, the lean season has already begun. They don't have any food storage left until the next harvest, which is scheduled for October.
In the village of Bongoukoirey, the women's network Mata Masu Dubara (MMD) fights to save their children from malnutrition. This group, composed of 99 women, organized several years ago to strengthen their resilience. These women work together to protect their harvests from climate related disasters and have developed a number of strategies with the support of CARE. They have created savings and loan associations which enable them to generate more individual revenue. They also set up a granary to store and protect grain in order to prevent shortages of stocks which usually occur between March and September every year. In addition, they have planted vegetable gardens in order to enrich their children's nutrition.
CARE offers training sessions to help these women gain the skills they need to be successful in their efforts and to prevent the food crisis from worsening. "Emergency response costs between 70 and 80 percent more than prevention," says Johannes Schoors, CARE Niger Country Director.