Niger is a huge arid state of around 15 million people and a gateway between north and sub-Saharan Africa. The UN rates Niger as one of the world’s least developed and poorest countries in the world and it often ranks at the bottom of the Human Development Index. More than 60% of the population lives in severe poverty. One in six children die before their fifth birthday and one in seven women die in, or as a consequence of, childbirth. It has the highest birth rate in the world, yet more than 40% of children still don’t have access to education, giving Niger one of the worst literacy rates in the world.
Its health system is basic and disease is widespread. Most people live on less than a dollar a day and malnutrition is persistent in rural areas.
Recently, International Development Secretary, Andrew Mitchell, announced the key outcomes of two aid reviews and set out the results that UK aid will deliver for the world’s poorest people over the next four years. The focus on some smaller countries takes away from some of the world’s poorest countries such as Niger.
At The Leprosy Mission we are working with the Danja Health & Leprosy Centre (DHLC) near Maradi, Niger to raise awareness about leprosy symptoms and treatment and to encourage people with leprosy to come forward for free medicine, surgery and disability prevention care.
In Niger, people affected by leprosy and disability are often prevented from participating in the community in trading, schooling and social activities. The poverty level of the country means limited job opportunities. Farming, a major occupation, has many risks such as low rainfall or poor quality soil.
This year over 500 people will be empowered to live independent lives through education, vocational training and livelihood assistance. There will also be improved housing and sanitation for 18 families. Awareness campaigns will help change community beliefs about leprosy, resulting in a reduction in stigma. People affected by leprosy and disability will be helped to establish a sustainable income as they move towards financial independence.