The Humanitarian Effectiveness Project

Download the essay ‘Even the river has need of its tributaries: An exploration of humanitarian effectiveness in the slow-onset context of Niger’, by David Matyas

The humanitarian context in Niger

Niger is a low-income, landlocked Sub-Saharan country, located in the West Sahel region. The Human Development Report 2015 ranks Niger 188th (out of 188 countries), with a Human Development Index of 0.348. Although, during the last three decades, Niger has experienced considerable improvements in life expectancy at birth, expected years, and mean years of schooling, the standard of living (measured by the Gross National Income per capita) is still below the level of 1980. Almost 90% of the population in Niger are multi-dimensionally poor, and 40.8% live below the income poverty line ($1.25 a day). Most of the poor (94%) live in rural areas.

Fertility rates in Niger are among the highest in the world (7.6 children per woman) as well as population growth rate (3.8% annual change), which means the Sahelian country would triple its population by 2050. Niger’s economy relies mainly on agricultural production, and the majority of the population concentrates in the South, where environmental conditions for farming and herding are more favourable. Agriculture employs two thirds of the workforce in Niger, and accounts for more than half of household income nationally and over 60 percent for rural households.

Production levels of rain-fed subsistence crops, the majority of Niger’s agricultural sector, have been negatively affected by rainfall variability. For example, over the last decade, three periods of drought (in 2004, 2009 and 2011) led to significant deficits of agricultural production. Other factors impacting farmers and pastoralists include poor management of natural resources, overgrazing, soil erosion, and insufficient access to markets. In sum, increases in the amount of farmland have not been enough to compensate for population growth rates, affecting food availability.

Niger has experienced regular food crises since the early 1970s. The sequence of food crises intensified during the 2000s, with recurrences in 2005, 2008, 2010 and 2012, severely affecting the lives and livelihoods of millions of people. The Global Hunger Index qualifies the situation in Niger as ‘serious’, although it reports improvements in the proportion of undernourished in the population (9.5% in 2015 compared to 34.9% in 1995). According to the United Nations Strategic Humanitarian Response Plan 2015, between 3 and 4 million people are vulnerable to food insecurity even in ‘good years’. Meanwhile, instability in neighbouring countries led to an influx of refugees (currently there are 37,000 refugees from Mali and 16,000 from Nigeria residing in Niger) and the return of migrant workers from Libya.

According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the European Union is the largest donor of Official Development Assistance (ODA) to Niger, followed by the World Bank, the United States, and France. Of all the bilateral ODA to Niger, humanitarian aid accounts for 27%. In 2015, the US was the largest contributor to the UN Humanitarian Response Plan ($110 million), while the European Commission disbursed $55 million. The World Food Programme received 68% of the total humanitarian funding.

Last updated May 2016.

Photo credit: Corantine Groccia/Save the Children

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