Susanna Cunningham with some local Red Cross volunteers and Irish Red Cross Secretary General Liam O'DwyerMy name is Susanna Cunningham and I am writing to you today from Niger, in West Africa with an update on the current situation here.

 

You may not be aware (because it receives very little media coverage), but right now there is a staggering humanitarian crisis unfolding in Niger.

 

Today there are over 1.5 million people at immediate risk of dying from hunger and thirst, 92% of them are children.

 

In some regions infant mortality rates are among the highest in the world. Disease and malnutrition are widespread. People here live hand to mouth, barely surviving with the few crops they can grow and with no access to safe and clean water. 

 

Right now, the Irish Red Cross is building wells and water systems in some of the poorest and most high-risk communities of Niger.

 

When I first came to Niger, a little over three years ago, I was astounded by the staggering levels of poverty. I remember a young mother Nafissatou, she could have been no more than 25.

 

Meet Nafissatou

Nafissatou lives with her husband and five children in a simple handmade mud hut. Every day Nafissatou would put her new baby in a sling on her back and walk for six hours across the desert to a broken old well to collect water. Then, exhausted and dehydrated, she carried her child and the precious water home.

 

Nafissatou bathes her young child, Zinder, Niger

 

Nafissatiu made this trip every single day to try and keep her children alive. That is the deeply shocking reality of life in Niger. And that is why the Irish Red Cross is working with local volunteers to provide safe, secure water sources.

 

“Since the Irish Red Cross built our well, I can wash my children and their clothes. And there is some water for cooking. My baby has clean skin. I now can grow some vegetables to give my children better food.” – Nafissatou (through a local translator).

 

With water communities can grow and, as they do, the Irish Red Cross is there to provide the vital supports they need – like seeds and livestock, basic cooking tools and even rudimentary classrooms – so the children of Niger can begin to learn essential life skills.

 

I’m so proud of the work the Irish Red Cross is doing in Niger and even prouder of the amazing support we have received from the people back home in Ireland. Because, while most of the world has forgotten about the people of Niger, the Irish Red Cross and the Irish people have not. The Irish Red Cross will continue to protect vulnerable people whenever and wherever they are at risk.

 

Thank you so much,

Susanna

 

Irish Red Cross Country Representative, Niger