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At a glance: Niger

UNICEF supporter Amy Robbins visits Niger to review progress for women and children

UNICEF Image: Amy Robbins, Niger
© UNICEF Niger/2008
US Fund for UNICEF board member and major donor Amy Robbins visiting women who have been benefiting from a UNICEF-support ‘micro-credit’ programme in the village of Rafoua, Niger.

By Sandra Bisin

MARADI, Niger, 21 November 2008 – Zouley Yahaya has renewed hope and a new goal in life. Some time ago, she bought a goat for 70 dollars. Now, through a UNICEF-supported programme, she expects to sell it for at least double the amount she paid.

Ms. Yahaya, age 40, is one of the 25 women in the village of Rafoua that is benefiting from a ‘micro-credit’ programme which aims to reduce food insecurity, as well as improve health and social status, especially among women and children.

“I received a total of about 100 dollars as a micro-credit,” said Ms. Yahaya. “This has enabled me to buy the goat as well as food to feed it. Before, I was only seen as a housewife and I had no decision-making power. Today, I am very busy with this project. I have become a lot more independent.”

'Tangible hope'

Rafoua is one of 64 localities in the commune of Sarkin Yamma that have been supported by UNICEF in partnership with US Fund for UNICEF board member and major donor Amy Robbins. Ms Robbins has been actively collaborating with UNICEF for the past four years, funding interventions in Niger, Ethiopia and Sudan. Between 2006 and 2008, she provided one million dollars towards the programme in Niger.

“Zouley is the very example of what I wish to give children and women in the commune of Sarkin Yamma – tangible hope that life can get better,” Ms. Robbins said. “Through this community-based integrated programme, they are given the basic resources so they can move forward and get what they most want in their lives.”

On a recent mission to Niger last month, Ms. Robbins visited the commune of Sarkin Yamma to review the progress that has been achieved since 2006.

“In 2005, we started with the idea to increase access to basic services,” said Ms. Robbins. “After three years, thanks to a package of services developed by UNICEF and its partners, I am very pleased to see that the situation has significantly improved in Sarkin Yamma and the interventions have been successful.”

Integrated approach improves lives

The programme aims at offering a comprehensive package of activities, such as increased access to health care as well as safe water, sanitation and girls’ education.

In addition, sensitisation sessions are conducted to improve awareness of child survival through essential family practices, such as proper hand-washing and the use of oral rehydration salts to treat diarrhoea.

Women and children benefiting

With the support of Ms. Robbins since 2006, more than 850 women have benefited from the micro-credit programme in the commune of Sarkin Yamma.

Over 5,000 people are now enjoying access to safe water through the creation of modern water supply systems. Approximately 70 per cent of the population of the commune now has access to safe water, as opposed to 46 per cent of the population nationwide. 

In addition, nearly 850 women in the commune were relieved of part of their domestic chores through the installation of grain mills and almost 14,000 people (including 10,500 women) were reached through awareness sessions on key family practices.

Paving the way for sustainability

“When I came to Niger during the 2005 food and nutritional crisis, I understood that the crisis was entirely preventable –  it was not a cyclone or any other natural disaster. If we do not start thinking about promoting food security and prevention, the situation will never change,” Ms. Robbins explained.

Ms. Robbins is currently planning to expand her support to an additional two communes.
“We hope that the people benefiting from these interventions, especially girls and women, will inspire the generations to come to stand up and take their own future in their hands,” said Ms. Robbins.

© UNICEF video/2008




November 2008:
UNICEF correspondent Amy Bennett reports on the recent visit of major donor Amy Robbins to villages in the Maradi region of Niger.
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