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Mariama battles poverty as a sole parent in Niger

Walk of necessity: Mariama walking in the streets of Niamey selling kopto. Kopto is made from the leaves of the moringa tree. (Left) Mariama nurses her daughter Fati. Photos: Francois Therrien

Mariama walking in the streets of Niamey selling kopto. Kopto is made from the leaves of the moringa tree. Photos: Francois Therrien

IN Niger, West Africa, almost three million people are living in extreme poverty.

More than 40 per cent of the country’s people either can’t afford to buy food or can’t access it.

Without the food they need, many people are living on the brink of survival, and bringing up children can be heartbreaking.

Thankfully, Mariama is receiving the essential food and help she needs to save the life of her malnourished daughter, Fati.

For most of us, it’s almost impossible to imagine what it would be like to live from day-to-day without enough food to eat.

But for Mariama, a 29-year-old sole parent living in Niger, West Africa, this is the reality she and her family face most days.

“Our feeding rhythm depends on whether my mother gets to sell her vegetables,” she said.

“My mother sells on the side of the road because she cannot afford to pay market taxes.”

This tiny, inconsistent income means that Mariama and her family exist from day-to-day, often without money to buy food and water.

“We normally store our food inside sacks,” Mariama said. “But we currently have no food to store.”

Raising a child in these circumstances is extremely difficult.

Mariama does the best she can for her two-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Fati, however Fati is often sick.

Recently Fati became malnourished, so Mariama took her to the nutrition centre, which is supported by Caritas Australia and run by local partners CAFOD (United Kingdom Caritas) and CADEV Niger (Caritas Australia’s local partner in Niger).

The nutrition centre cares for malnourished children like Fati, and provides them with medical care, nutritional supplements and food so they can recover and gain weight.

A Caritas Australia spokesperson said that, in Niger, more than half the children under five years old experienced malnutrition, so the need for the nutrition centre was enormous.

About 510 malnourished children are admitted each week, 15 of them severely underweight.

“Those who come to the centre are mostly the poorest of the poor,” Sr Francesca, a staff member at the nutrition centre, said.

The Caritas spokesperson said the eight-week program of food and care that Fati was receiving had almost certainly saved her life.

The nutritious food she was given was essential to her recovery – helping her medicine to work well, building her strength and increasing her resilience to disease.

Mariama nurses her daughter Fati. Photos: Francois Therrien

Mariama nurses her daughter Fati. Photos: Francois Therrien

The caritas spokesperson said Fati was gaining weight and a burden was lifting from Mariama’s heart.

Mariama said her worries were beginning to disappear.

“My daughter has begun playing and running around with other children,” she said.

“She is making great improvements.”

As Fati recovers physically, Mariama’s spirit and dignity are being restored through the counselling she receives at the nutrition centre.

She attends daily classes that empower her to provide improved nutrition and hygiene that will help maintain Fati’s good health.

Mariama has also taken a sewing course, and will use her skills to earn an income, so that she and Fati can look forward to a more secure, hopeful future.

“My dreams for Fati are that she gets her health back, goes to school and becomes a nurse or teacher,” Mariama said.

“I would like to say a big thank-you to Australian people for all their support to the nutrition centre.

“Without your help, the sisters would not be able to support us and poor children like Fati.”

Donations to Caritas Australiaís Project Compassion 2015 could help save the lives of people living on the brink of survival in Niger, giving them access to nutritional support and essential food for life.

Written by: Staff writers
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