Published: 15:48 GMT Daylight Time - Thursday 13 May 2010
Niger: Christians Plead for Help From Their Brothers and Sisters as Famine Looms
The vast African country of Niger is the focus of an escalating food crisis. Half the population face food shortages, and these are expected to get worse in the coming months until the 2010 harvest is due. Malnourished children, emaciated cattle, and families existing on a daily meal of boiled leaves are all too common. Many people have left for other countries. Barnabas Aid is already assisting the tiny Christian minority with basic foodstuffs, but the need is far greater than we can currently cover.
A recurring pattern, but even worse
One of the poorest countries in the world with one of the highest birth rates, Niger has faced repeated food crises in the past, most notably after droughts in 1973, 1983 and 2005. Much of the country lies in the Sahara Desert. Last year rain fell so heavily for a four-day period in September that severe flooding occurred with many homes destroyed. Yet overall the 2009 rains were poor, and the cereal harvest was 31% lower than in 2008. "2009-10 is very much like 2005 and has become catastrophic in recent weeks," wrote our project partner in Niger on 27 April.
Government warehouses, opened for grain distribution on 1st March, are already largely empty. Food prices for staples, including millet, rice, sorghum and maize, are "at an exceptionally high level" according to a government bulletin a month ago. Our project partner comments that "Prices climb dangerously and this is a warning sign."
The Christian community
Around 97% of the Nigerien population is Muslim, with Christians making up an estimated 0.3%. There is considerable religious liberty at present, but Islamic radicals are seeking the introduction of sharia law. As ever, a minority is particularly vulnerable at times of crisis. A military junta seized power in February 2010.
"Eternally grateful for brothers and sisters who care about our survival"
Barnabas Aid has been providing food aid for Nigerien believers since 2006. "We are eternally grateful for this great support for the Christians of Niger and are encouraged to know that we have brothers and sisters who believe in us and who care strongly about our survival," says our project partner.
Dr Patrick Sookhdeo, International Director of Barnabas Aid, comments, "Niger is a country that rarely hits the news, yet it is vast and is suffering a prolonged series of natural disasters. The small Christian minority is appealing to Barnabas Aid for help from their fellow-believers around the world at this time. Please help us to help them at their time of need. You can send your gift through Barnabas, just as the early Christians in Antioch sent a gift through Barnabas and Saul to help their brothers in Judea at a time of severe famine (Acts 11:27-30)."
We are currently providing millet and rice to 312 Christian families, but a further 1,122 families need help as well. With rising prices the cost per family is currently around £25 per month. The families need food for at least four months more until harvest-time in September or October.
If you prefer to telephone, dial: 0800 587 4006 from within the UK or +44 1672 565031 from outside the UK. Please quote project reference 38-568.
If you prefer to send a cheque by post: Click this link for the address of our regional office. Please quote project reference 38-568.
- "In urban slums and desert villages, one word is on all lips: famine", says a recent press report from Niger. Pray for the whole population of this arid country, that their food needs will be provided. Pray for good rains in 2010.
- Pray for the new military government of Niger, which has put far more effort into trying to help the starving population than the previous government did. Pray that they will continue to work for the good of the people and will protect the existing secular stance of the country, with its accompanying religious liberty.
- Pray that Christians in Niger will remain trusting and confident in their heavenly Father at this time. Pray that their faith, hope and peace may be a powerful witness to the Muslim majority around them.
- Pray that our project partners in Niger will find ways to help people to become self-sufficient even in drought years by means of imaginative income-generation projects.
- Barnabas Aid has supported a number of other projects in Niger including a Bible School, women's income generation projects, discipling and Scripture distribution, Scriptures for youth work, and a children's ministry. Pray that these ministries will bear much fruit.