AFRICA/NIGER - "It is God who sends you to us": grassroots communities help families in need

Tuesday, 26 September 2023


Dosso (Agenzia Fides) - "Despite the uncertainty in which the country lives after the coup of July 26, we continue to work. Harvests throughout the Sahel are poor and the closure of the borders, especially those of Benin, means that food is becoming increasingly scarce and prices are rising at an alarming rate", said Father Rafael Casamayor, who works as a missionary in the community of Dosso, diocese of Niamey, and shared with Fides the initiative of a campaign with which the mission wants to contribute to the fight against famine. "Niger is isolated in this delicate and difficult time because of the lack of rain, poor harvests, lack of international aid and the closure of borders in a landlocked country. In this context," reports Father Rafael, "we are in our mission in Dosso committed to helping the most disadvantaged families who are already in a difficult and almost impossible situation for them. We have decided to do this as discreetly as possible so as not to cause tension within the community. The four base communities of the mission will be responsible for the initiative as they know best the situation of the most disadvantaged families. We intend to organize different distributions depending on our possibilities and the events in this very uncertain time." Niger belongs to the Sahel zone, a vast area between the Sahara desert and the African savannah, which is home to the poorest countries in the world. Climate change is having a particularly severe impact on this vast area, where crops are becoming increasingly scarce and famines are becoming more frequent. This year seems to be a typical example: rainfall was insufficient and crops were destroyed in large areas. “After the coup of July 26, the borders with the OECD countries were closed, especially with Benin, where most of our food comes from, which led to a worsening of the situation,” writes the missionary. "Aid from many international organizations has also been cancelled, which has resulted in the prices of basic foodstuffs rising and making them difficult to find, threatening the famine that they are already feeling, especially for the poorest.” “With the parish council of our mission we have worked out a project on how we can intervene,” reports Father Casamayor. “We are all poor here, starting with all the members of the Christian community, but no one has held back. We will ask for donations for the most needy, whether Christian or Muslim, the poorest in the city and we have decided to entrust the project to the four grassroots communities that know the neighborhoods and the people. Those responsible will discreetly compile a list of families in need and distribute it in the most confidential manner. The first action took place last week in the evening, in the most remote, small and humble places with the simplest people who, to our surprise, greeted us with the words: "It is God who sends you to us". "We returned to the mission in the middle of the night, full of joy, with the intention of returning next month. So we continue, God willing". (RC/AP) (Agenzia Fides, 26/9/2023)