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Niger: local population and Malian refugees hard hit by food crisis

01-06-2012 News Footage Ref. AV018N

Already hard hit by a poor growing season in 2011-2012, with rain at the wrong time and in all the wrong places, the population of North Tillabéry in Niger now has to share its meagre resources with the many refugees arriving from Mali. According to the authorities in Niger, more than 30,000 Malians from the Ménaka area and an estimated 8,000 Niger nationals living in Mali have found refuge in Niger since the beginning of the year, fleeing the fighting between government forces and armed groups.

  • TV news footage transmitted on Eurovision News 08:30 GMT 1 June 2012
  • Footage available from the ICRC Video Newsroom (www.icrcvideonewsroom.org) same date
    For more information, please contact Didier Revol, ICRC, Geneva: e-mail

Amanita Walid, from Ménaka, arrived in Niger with nothing but the clothes on her back. Members of her family and other people she knew ended up scattered across several sites. Despite the difficulties, she had a genuine sense of security: "The real change when we arrived here was not hearing any more gunfire."

On 7 May, the ICRC and the Red Cross Society of Niger completed a food distribution operation for over 110,000 people. Each household (six people on average) in 75 villages of the Ouallam, Banibangou and Abala departments in the Tillabéry area was given 20 kg of millet – enough to cover their grain needs for four months. In addition, 20 grain banks were topped up to make an additional supply available if needed.

Between January and March, the ICRC had already distributed food to approximately the same number of people and had supplied agricultural seed to 60,000 people (each household received 20 kg of improved millet seed and five kilos of cowpea seed). The rainy season, expected to begin in June, is awaited with impatience.

Some of this footage was shot in Garbey, a village about 50 km from the Malian border. Here, the food crisis meant that people and livestock had almost no food at all. The most vulnerable people – residents and refugees alike – take desperate measures, such as reducing the number of meals they eat each day, selling off their animals for next to nothing, and moving to places less affected by the crisis. Others are forced to eat baobab leaves. The people of Niger are showing great solidarity with the Malian refugees, but this cannot possibly enable everyone to eat.

As well as making vital deliveries of food and other emergency aid, the ICRC and the Red Cross Society of Niger have launched a number of innovative joint programmes.

Tizégorou (another location appearing in the footage, also in the Tillabéry area) is a farming village, lying 207 km from Niger’s capital Niamey. Here, a "cash for work" programme aims to restore degraded soil, cut back invasive trees, and build weirs on rivers to catch rainwater, making it easier to grow fodder for livestock. In return for this work, people are given cash that they can use to meet their basic needs and settle the debts they have run up during this very difficult period.

According to the Niger authorities, almost 35 per cent of households in the country – over 5.4 million people – are affected to varying degrees by food insecurity. The grain shortage is put at 692,000 tonnes.


00 00: Sign indicating the village of Garbey
00 03: Wide shots of refugees setting up shelter and preparing to eat (8 shots)
00 50: Children (3 shots)
01 04: Well used by people and livestock (2 shots)

01 23 ITW Aminata Walide (French – 9")
"Before the front in the north of Mali, I was at home, I was very comfortable, I can't complain."

01 32 ITW Aminata Walide (French – 5 ")
"And everyone scattered, everyone fled."

01 37 ITW Aminata Walide (French – 34")
"The first days when we arrived here, we were welcomed, it has to be said. We were welcomed because we were brought here. We stayed under that tree there, which serves as our shelter. And that's the water we use. It's the water we drink when we arrived. It's the water we drank right away. It gave us the runs, but we had no choice."

02 11: Close-up of noticeably dirty water in a cup.

02 16 ITW Aminata Walide (French – 9")
"The real change when we arrived here was not hearing any more gunfire. That's the first change."

02 26: Distribution carried out by the ICRC and Red Cross Society of Niger personnel for residents and Malian refugees. (6 shots)

03 19: Beneficiary Abdou Siddo is registered, takes sacks of food and seed (4 shots)

03 46: Children at distribution site pick up grains that have fallen out of sacks (3 shots)

04 05: Young woman carries sack on head, running back to her home.

04 12: Abdou Siddo arrives home and unloads his sacks.

04 19: ITW Abdou Siddo, Garbey resident (Zarma – 24")
"I have two wives and 10 children in all. Five of my children left for Mali. At first they helped me from there, but now they are back and that makes our situation even worse. We all live together in total poverty and we no longer have enough to eat."

04 44: Wife of Abdou Siddo preparing a sauce from baobab leaves (two days of maceration to remove the bitterness; little nutritional value) (2 shots)

04 56: Sign indicating the village of Tizégorou, ICRC vehicle passes by.

05 05: Village of Tizégorou, a herd of goats passes by (2 shots)

05 24: Wide shots of recovery site for arable land (2 shots)

05 39: Men and women at work (6 plans)

06 11: Rainwater catchment to fertilize the land and promote the growth of grass for fodder

06 22 ITW Lieutenant Boubacar Hassane, Environment Department, Government of Niger (French - 30”)
"In Africa, there really are ways of knowing how bad the food deficit is. Especially when you enter a village and you don't hear any pestles grinding away. Quite frankly, you know something's wrong. So when I arrived here, for over 10 days at least, there was no sound of pestles on mortars. And that means, very frankly, that there is extreme poverty and famine in the village."

06 52 ITW Karimou Assoumane, resident of Tizégorou, 23 children and two wives (Zarma - 39”)
"Everyone has enough to eat, we're happy, really we benefit a lot from this programme. Before, if your child asked you for something to eat and you didn't have anything to give, you didn't have a clear conscience. That can even make you go steal something if you don't have work."

07 05 ITW Haoua Hamani, resident of Tizégorou, 25 dependants, husband has emigrated (Zarma – 14")
"If it wasn't for this cash for work, hunger was going to kill us because the men got nothing to buy us food, not even for a week or two. Some people go for months on one meal a day."

07 19 END

For further information, please contact:
Germain Mwehu, ICRC Niamey, tel: +227 97 45 43 82
Steven Anderson, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 20 11 or +41 79 536 92 50

or visit our website and consult the Niger page and our latest operational update.

Ménaka, Gao, Mali. A Red Cross volunteer looks after a displaced child.
  • Copyright: ICRC
  • Release year: June 2012
  • Production locations: Villages of Garbey and Tizigorou (North Tillabéry, Niger)
  • Running time: 07'19"
  • Languages available: French, Zarma
  • Reference: AV018N

Format: 16:9 SD