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At a glance: Niger

A cash transfer programme helps a village in the Niger back on its feet

By Bob Coen

A programme in the Niger provided cash to vulnerable families to ensure children would be fed during lean months.

TAJAE NOMADE, Tahoua Region, Niger, 5 April 2013 – Hamatou Oumarou stands in line holding her 13-month-old daughter Safia.

UNICEF reports on a programme in the Niger that provides cash to mothers of young children during lean times between harvests.  Watch in RealPlayer


Ms. Oumarou has four children. She and hundreds of other mothers have gathered in the fierce heat of their dusty village on the edge of the Sahara to receive a monthly allowance of 20,000 CFA, the equivalent of about US$40, to buy food.

Targeting children at risk

“This money has helped us a lot,” says Ms. Oumarou after receiving her cash allowance, the third month in a row she’s drawn on this resource. “We are all so relieved because this has been a very difficult period for us.”

This direct distribution of money is part of the second phase of joint UNICEF cash transfer programme that has received funding form the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Governments of the

Netherlands and Sweden and is being implemented by the CARE and the Government of the Niger.

The programme is just one of the emergency interventions targeting vulnerable families that was put in place to deal with the serious food crisis facing the Niger in 2012. The crisis put more than 390,000 children at risk of severe acute malnutrition.

A whole community struggling

“You wake up knowing there is no food, and you are so anxious because your children are there in front of you,” recalls Ms. Oumarou. “I was just forced to go out and do whatever I could to find them food. It’s not just one or two of us who are in this situation. It’s the whole community. Everybody knows how hard it’s been.”

The dire situation forced most husbands to leave the country in search of work.

“We normally harvest between 30 to 40 bushels of millet every season, but, because of poor rains these past years, we’ve only managed five,” says Ms. Oumarou’s husband Mohamed Boubé. “So for a family with many children that is not enough…When I get work I send 5,000 or 10,000 CFA, whatever I can, so at least they can buy something to eat.”

Mr. Boubé’s contribution was rarely enough, especially during the lean season – the months leading up to the new harvest when, even in the best of times, food stocks usually run low. The four- month-long cash transfer programme was implemented during this period to bridge the lean season.

© UNICEF Video
In the village of Tajae Nomade, mothers of young children queue to receive the cash payment. Receiving this money ensures that a mother is not forced to share food she receives for her youngest with her other hungry children.

Ensuring everyone in the family has enough

“The four months the programme is targeting our community are the four months that are really difficult,” says village mayor Ibro Handjar. “These are the four months of our lean season when the granaries are empty, especially so for the poor and vulnerable. So 20,000 CFA each month allows the average household to survive for 20 days, which means the families just have to provide a small complement to cover the remaining 10 days, which makes things much easier.”

Receiving this money ensures that a mother is not forced to share food she receives for her youngest with her other hungry children.

“The programme has really assisted us by not only ensuring that everyone in the family has enough to eat, but also protecting the food ration I receive for my baby,” says Ms. Oumarou. “As soon as I get the money, we go and buy food, and the baby’s ration is protected. No one else touches it.”

A village back on its feet

The timing of the programme’s implementation has also allowed the village to get back on its feet.

“Thanks to having received the money to buy food, people were now able to go and work in their fields instead of being forced to go find work in order to be able to buy food,” says traditional leader Ibrahim Agali. “So, this has been a big help for our community.”

The cash transfer programme is helping prevent child malnutrition, protect the most vulnerable and provide food security to communities at risk. In the Tahoua region of the Niger alone, more than 15,500 vulnerable households benefitted from this emergency intervention in 2012.



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