Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Deadly Problems Need Tangible Solutions

by Kristin Allen

Comedian Ricky Gervais recently got into hot water after he slammed Beyonce, Rihanna, and Katy Perry for saying that they sent prayers to Oklahoma after the catastrophic tornados.  He wrote “I feel like an idiot now…..I only sent money.”  His point was that there are real, tangible things that can be done to help in a crisis.  So

concern, prayers, good thoughts, and best wishes, are most effective when

they are combined with actual action.

{source: Barbara Goldberg}

The water crisis is about as big and deadly as it gets.  There are 345 million people in Africa who lack access to clean, safe water.  I saw it firsthand when I had the opportunity to go to Niger, West Africa in January 2012.  On that trip, I visited a village without “safe water,” which meant that the women and girls would have to walk for miles to a filthy water hole to get any form of water.  They would fill a large bucket with foul, brown, disgusting water and trudge back to their village carrying the heavy load on their heads.   Water so filthy that I wouldn’t even give it to my pets was their only source of water for cooking and drinking.  Forget about hygiene - water is too precious and rare to be used for hand washing or showers.  Because of all this, more than 3.4 million people die each year from water, sanitation, and hygiene-related causes.

{source: Kristin Allen}

When a village gets safe water, THEN life can begin.  Women can work, girls can go to school and create a future for themselves, infant mortality is drastically reduced, as are serious diseases such as trachoma and Guinea worm.  I think Ricky Gervais' point is worth thinking about: when we are concerned about something, it is important to combine action with concern, when at all possible. There is so much need in the world that you can't possibly address it all, however, just because you can't fix everything, doesn't mean you can't contribute towards something; and anything is better than nothing when it involves saving lives.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Get to Know Niger

by Lauren Cohen

You already know that Wells Bring Hope is committed to drilling wells to bring safe water and sanitation to rural villages in Niger, West Africa. But how much do you know about the country and the people that we serve?

Did you know…
• The official language of Niger is French, and not Swahili.

{source: riekhavoc}

• The Nigerien flag is perfectly square in shape and the colors of orange, white, and green stand for the Sahara desert, purity and innocence, and green vegetation and fruitful agriculture respectively.

• Niger and the Democratic Republic of Congo are tied for last place on the U.N.’s Human Development Index.

Niger River
{source: Guillaume Colin & Pauline Penot}

• The word “Niger” is derived from the Tamashek phrase “gher n-gheren,” meaning “river among rivers.”

• The currency of Niger is the CFA Franc. $1 = 500.25 CFA

• Niger is divided into seven regions and one single capital district.

• Niger is nicknamed “Frying Pan of the World,” due to its being one of the hottest countries in the world.

• In May 2004, slavery was declared illegal in Niger.

• According to a 2012 survey, there are approximately 212,480 internet users in Niger. That's just 1.3% of the population.

• Niger’s exports include uranium ore, livestock, cowpeas, and onions.

• Niger’s imports include foodstuffs, machinery, vehicles and parts, petroleum, cereals.

• There is no official religion for the people of Niger, however 90-95% of the population is Muslim.

• Hausa people are the largest ethnic group in Niger, comprising 55.4% of the population.

• The northern mountains of Niger are called Aïr.

• The capital city of Niger is Niamey.

• The main crops of Niger are sorghum and millet.

• The lowest point in Niger is the Niger River with an elevation of 200 meters. The highest point is Mont Idoukal-n-Taghes at 2,044 meters.

• Wildlife in Niger include buffalo, elephants, West African lion, Northwest African cheetah, roan, antelope, and warthogs.

Roan Antelope
{source: Pablo Escovado}
• Niger won its independence from France in 1960 and experienced single-party and military rule until 1991 when General Ali Saibou was forced in 1993 by public pressure to allow multiparty elections, which resulted in a democratic government.

Anyone can ask for help for a certain cause, organization, or country. However, when you begin to learn more about your chosen cause, when you understand a little more about the culture and the daily realities of the areas that are benefiting from your generosity, you gain a deeper understanding of the people whose lives you are changing.

CIA World Fact Book

Monday, July 15, 2013

Well #200!

Wells Bring Hope is proud to announce a milestone to celebrate--200 wells in five years! That's 130,000 lives transformed by safe water in the poorest country in the world. Thanks to all of the volunteers, supporters, and donors whose compassion in action made this possible.

{photo by Ken Kilroy}

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

A Safe Water Well for Koutouma - We Did It!

We asked you, our supporters, to fund a well for the village of Koutouma in honor of World Water Day, and within a two weeks of receiving the final donation, drilling was underway! It took four days to complete the well to a depth of 354 feet, and the villagers even assisted with the process. The following is a report from the field by Mamane Amadou, Director of Water Operations for World Vision Niger.

After testing to see if the pump was working properly, the water was sampled and sent to the water quality laboratory. The results indicated that all major parameters met the WHO standard except that nitrites were slightly elevated. An analysis revealed that the nitrites may have come from the chemical product used for mud drilling. After hours of pumping, another sample was drawn and sent for analysis. The water sample passed, and the hand pump installation followed on June 7th after the concrete apron around the pump was constructed.

“The water that we now pump from the borehole well is very clear, it tastes good, and you don’t even have to pass it through a sieve to take out insects or dirt” said one 40 year old woman. Now we can sleep well at night and get enough rest, with the peace of mind that we have safe water for our children.  Now we have enough time to take care of them because we don’t have to spend all that time getting water.  And our hands will be soft,” she added.

“All that we can do is say thanks, thanks and thanks to Wells Bring Hope and World Vision” said the chief of the village.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Meaning of Poverty

by Christine Eusebio

What comes to mind when we think of being poor?

Is it not having enough money? Not having the most expensive car? Or even not having the name brand clothes that seem to be in fashion?

The definition of “underprivileged” can vary from one person to another.

But in West Africa, the definition is very simple.

The ten poorest countries in the world lie within this region of one of the largest continents on Earth. Seven nations in this area are currently troubled with political and social issues, and have been devastated by harsh climate changes. Niger is one of the most severely affected of those countries.

According to Oxford University's poverty index, 92 percent of Niger's population is trapped in what is called "multi-dimensional" poverty, the highest level in 109 countries studied. Niger, along with nearby Congo, was also ranked dead last on the UN's 2013 Human Development Index.

To make matters worse, a new drought has created yet another crisis, affecting the crops and leaving little to eat for the 6 million people already suffering from food scarcity.

A river runs dry in Niger - {source: Bread for the World}
In Niger, many villagers cut back on meals during the "lean season", which is a time when food stocks run low before harvest season, and the drought has extended this period. As a result, families go to bed hungry and malnourishment is rampant.

Many Nigerien mothers suffer unimaginable losses, watching as their young children starve to death. According to Save the Children, Niger has consistently been at or near the bottom of its rankings of the worst places in the world to be a mother. Many of these women wake up each day unable to feed their children.

{source: EU Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection}

By 2040, 55 million people will live in Niger, considering the difficulties feeding the present population, the situation is likely to get worse.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Women: Inspiration & Enterprise - The Future of Africa

bby Jessi Johnson

South Africa has historically been a nation that sets examples.  Within Africa, which as a continent is experiencing new economic growth, South Africa leads the way in international and open-door economic policies.  It rebelled against apartheid to become one of the most multi-cultural and multi-ethnic countries in the world. It hosts anti-homophobia symposiums. It was home to the first human-to-human heart transplant, and now South Africa is continuing along its forward-thinking path this year by honoring prominent female leaders at the Women: Inspiration & Enterprise symposium in Cape Town.

The Women: Inspiration & Enterprise symposium brought together prominent leaders from the worlds of politics, business, fashion, philanthropy, media, entertainment and the arts, in a full day of panels, workshops, and classes. The conference works with both women and men from a wide spectrum of industries in order to solidify the ideologies of gender equality. However, the symposium is focused on igniting the spark of enterprise in women who wish to expand their boundaries and pursue careers in any field. The event was comprised of inspirational talks and panels with high profile speakers and guests drawn from the worlds of politics, philanthropy, media, fashion and the arts. Panels discussed such diverse issues as the role of women in technology and the need for global empowerment in an age where death during childbirth is an intolerable risk in many developing countries—and the undeniable importance of clean water sources in at-risk nations.

{Sara Brown}
{Elsie Kanza}
{Arianna Huffington}

The symposium is an annual event. WIE, founded in 2010, is a global annual conference and online community designed to empower the next generation of women leaders, allowing a yearly space for females of any age to come together and discuss the significant issues facing their gender.  Past keynote speakers included Sarah Brown, wife of the former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, designer Donna Karan, and Huffington Post cofounder Arianna Huffington.  This year, CNN anchor Robyn Cunrow and Elsie Kanza, Head of Africa at the World Economic Forum made appearances and led panels.  Organizations like Wells Bring Hope, which helps bring awareness to the need for clean water sources and women’s health, honor the same spirit of empowerment that the symposium does.  An annual global gathering of this size showcases how women are participating in the global conversation and taking a central role in shaping the Africa of tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Food for Thought

by Nicholas Baldry

I have been watching what I eat of late.  My concerns about my own food intake have revolved around excess.  Excess salt, excess sugar, excess fat, excess calories, in short an excess of just about everything.  Of course I can control this by making the right choices when buying food and any issues with my own diet are the result of my own choices. With a plentiful variety of food, both healthy and unhealthy available at affordable prices at the local supermarket, my dietary intake is completely within my control.

In comparison the diet in Niger is, at the best of times, repetitive.  A diet largely consisting of milk and cereals such as millet or sorghum made into a porridge, as well as some starchy roots doesn’t offer a lot nutrition, and protein from meat is only available on special occasions with livestock being too valuable to slaughter on a regular basis.  When fruits and vegetables are available, they are usually prohibitively expensive for the poorest families.  Beyond that there is the primary issue that comes with collecting water for communities without a well - the lack of cleanliness of the water itself.

A lack of proper food impacts both physical and mental development in youngsters and productivity in adults.  Stunted growth amongst children is alarmingly prevalent in Niger with some estimates suggesting that about half of under-five’s suffer from this problem.

A real cause for alarm is that the diet described above is the diet available in good years.  A poor rainy season in late 2011 lead to failed harvests in 2012.  This produced what was variously called a lean season (which is a staggering understatement), nutritional crisis, or outright famine in the Sahel region.  Whatever you want to call it, the result of such poor conditions is a diet that consists of anything the stomach can hold.  In the past this has meant acacia leaves, weeds, and anything else that will stem the feeling of hunger.  Adults can barely survive on this diet, but the ones who suffer most are children.  In need of nutrients such as zinc, iron, magnesium and protein that this diet lacks, thousands of young children were left in need of treatment for acute malnutrition and too many children didn’t even get that.

And I worry about my diet.

{photo by Ida Harding}
As part of Wells Bring Hope’s commitment to help villages for at least 15 years after drilling a well, we teach techniques like drip farming.  This allows the efficient use of ‘grey water,’ which is wastewater* from domestic activities such as laundry, dishwashing and so on, to help grow vegetables that would otherwise not be available to villagers.  These vegetables add much-needed nutrients to the regular diet, and any excess produce can be sold, substantially increasing the household income.  Nutritional deficiencies have for too long been a fact of life for people living in Niger, with access to a well and updated farming techniques, a little water can go a long way to change this.

*Not that any water can be termed waste when it as scarce as it is in rural Niger, that is why recycling it for irrigation is so crucial.