Before the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) distributed livestock to ensure food security for displaced families in Gothèye, Niger, Hamsatou and her children were in an extremely vulnerable situation. Today, her animals are her source of income – and a source of hope.
Hamsatou is a widow and has long been the primary provider for her five children and four grandchildren. The family tried to make ends meet by cultivating millet, okra and beans.
Fled from their farm and animals
“I had a good life with my friends and family,” she recalls.
She comes from Tingou, a village not far from the border with Burkina Faso. In 2022, life took a sudden turn when armed groups spread terror in the Tillabéri region, which borders Burkina Faso and Mali.
“I remember the day we fled very well,” Hamsatou explains. “It was in the afternoon when armed men arrived on motorcycles and kidnapped the village chief. We were terrified and panicked. I took all the children and got them to safety outside the village.
“We fled for our lives, leaving our home, our livestock and our land behind in a hurry. We walked for several days under the scorching sun, without food and water. When we arrived in Gothèye, we were completely exhausted. The only thing on my mind was getting the children to safety,” she says.
Hamsatou and her family have received refuge in Gothèye for over ten months now. “We feel safer here, and the people here have welcomed us with open arms. We have a roof over our heads, but we have limited access to food and clean water.”
Hamasatou and her daughters have to walk several kilometres to fetch drinking water and collect firewood for cooking, exposing them to the risk of theft, kidnapping and violence.
“My daughters earn some money by working as domestic helpers, but we are entirely dependent on humanitarian aid organisations to survive, and some days we have nothing to eat.”
Plagued by insecurity, the western region of Tillabéri is home to 134,000 internally displaced persons according to UNHRC, around 40 per cent of the country's total internally displaced population of 335,000. The number displaced people in Tillabéri has more than quadrupled since 2018.
Fighting a daily battle for survival
These people are now fighting a daily battle for survival. The local population and various humanitarian aid organisations are doing what they can to alleviate the suffering and meet people’s most basic needs.
NRC ensures that children receive education, access to toilets and clean water, shelter and free legal aid. In addition, members of the community and internally displaced people receive assistance to improve food security. The distribution of goats and livestock is part of this assistance.
Recipients also receive training in animal husbandry and animal health, as well as management and feeding. So far, 395 families in the Tillabéri, Gothèye and Téra districts have received three goats each.
Piggy bank on four legs
In addition to producing milk, the goats also help the families earn a living. This, in turn, helps ensure a life of dignity for Hamsatou and the other displaced families. For farmers who have previously kept livestock, this also means restoring mental balance.
For Hamsatou’s family, their goats are also a four-legged piggy bank that allows them to pay for medicines or other unforeseen expenses.
Smiles and hope
“These families have an urgent need for food because they can no longer cultivate the land. Goats and animal husbandry provide both milk and much-needed income, but this assistance also gives people more dignified lives and hope for the future. I see that smiles have returned, and faces are lit with gratitude and hope. It’s immensely motivating for us humanitarian aid workers,” says Assoumana Mahamadou, who works as an assistant in NRC’s food security programme in Niger.
With the coup d'état on 26 July and the subsequent sanctions against Niamey without humanitarian exemptions, humanitarian ai organisations in the country struggle to raise enough funds to ensure food access for the thousands of displaced people.
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