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About the Author

Hanna Clarys
Student (Antwerp, Belgium)

Current Study: Political Sciences at Antwerp University. Likes: reading, writing and drawing. Activities: discovering the world step by step. Dream: becoming a war journalist somewhere in the distant future...


NIGER’S DYING IN SILENCE: Shall We Clean Our Ears?

Published 15th July 2010 - 8 comments - 2543 views -

7.1 Million people or half of Niger’s population are in danger to become the victims of a huge famine. The most recent one happened only five years ago.


In ‘normal’ times 45% of the children in West-African Niger are chronically underfed, 1/6 boys and girls don’t make it to their fifth birthdays. This results from the country being the poorest and least developed in the world. 80% of the land exists out of desert, the other 20% must be able to feed 8 out of 10 civilians, which are mostly farmers.

Every year there is a very difficult period just before harvest in September but this year it is no less than catastrophic: the period of hunger started in February already, which is much earlier than usual because of the small harvest of last year which was partly destroyed by drought. This year too the harvest will not be enough to feed everyone; as a result of climate change the rains are being irregular or even staying away. The following crisis will be huge.

International aid is crucial, but the media only report about sudden and spectacular crises; the silent dying in an unknown country do not have to count on such attention. However, emergency aid is needed to bridge the period of hunger, and there has to be created a more coordinated approach to tackle the high infant mortality rate.  

The inefficient health care system in Niger has to be ameliorated; there aren’t enough medical centres, they are difficult to reach , etc. Gender inequality and education is a big problem too: not even 3 out of 10 civilians can read and write, only 1/3 of the educated are women.

Fundamentally, it is about those things: education, health care and gender balance. But for the moment the focus must be on short-term thinking: saving lives. Moreover, this sort of crises have an extra negative effect on human development; families get their children out of school to find a job in the city. Daughters have to help out on the land, children have to go beg. A famine like this slows down emancipation and development for years. That’s why we have to open up our ears for the silent screams of Niger’s starving children:



(Main photo by Finbarr O'Reilly, Reuters)

Category: Hunger | Tags:


  • Luan Galani on 15th July 2010:

    Hanna, it is a totally unacceptable situation. So many poignant stories crying out to be told. I share the same opinion on media reports. Media outlets only report about sudden and spectacular crises…such things are not often on their radar.

    This crisis is terrible and all its serious consequences were very well described by you. So many worrisome stats…

    Thanks for waking me up for it.

  • Bart Knols on 15th July 2010:

    Thanks Hanna, for putting this on the blog ‘agenda’. Like my last blog on counterfeit drugs, where I received very few comments, I think that your blog will also be ‘clicked away’ without commenting. It is such a difficult and tragic situation that it becomes hard to say anything meaningful in a response - saving lives is what matters now, the rest will have to follow later.

    Tonight I had a discussion with a group about hunger, povertry, etc. and the argument that always pops up is: why continue feeding people that starve, just to keep them alive until the next drought and famine comes along… these are ethical and moral issues that are very hard to resolve and discuss with sceptics of relief aid.

    Thanks again for bringing this up.

  • Hanna Clarys on 15th July 2010:

    Wished there wouldn’t have been something to wake you up for, Luan, but thanks for being worried with me.

    To Bart: it is indeed difficult to say something useful to this. You can only be sorry and worried, saying how bad this is.
    The argument that came up in your discussion I can understand, but it’s not strong enough to let people die. As long as the long-term difficulties aren’t solved, we will have to keep feeding the people. We can’t just let them starve.

  • Luan Galani on 15th July 2010:

    Yes, to end this it is urgent to grapple with the root causes of this crisis…in the meanwhile, we have to keep feeding them. I agree with you guys.

  • Hussam Hussein on 15th July 2010:

    answering your question, with such a situation, yeah indeed! more attention should be aised on these events..

  • Jan Marcinek on 16th July 2010:

    Those are terrible numbers!

  • Clare Herbert on 16th July 2010:

    Shocking stuff. I haven’t been following the story in a lot of detail, but you paint a harrowing portrait. The success we are seeing in reducing hunger in some parts of the world are not seen everywhere, unfortunately.

  • Kevin Rennie on 23rd July 2010:

    I cannot get over how little publicity this is getting in Western media. the situation seems to be deteriorating with each day. The Red Cross reports that 1 in 10 children may die if aid is not faster.

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