John spoke in chapel last week, introducing the country of Niger to the student body. I made a power point presentation to go along with his presentation. We talked about the challenges in Niger.
1. The Challenge of the Heat
Niamey is the 2nd hottest capital city in the world. Niger's average temperature is 84.6. Compare that to 55.7 degrees for Maryland and 49.9 degrees for Scranton, Pennsylvania. We're talking hot, folks. (And that also explains why we're always so cold here in the US!) For about eight months of the year temperatures are routinely over 100 degrees. In May the temps don't even go below 80. This extreme heat leads to
2. Extreme weather. For eight to nine months of the year there is absolutely no rain at all. When the rains come, they are accompanied by violent dust storms. Sometimes there just isn't enough rain and famine results. This extreme climate and frequent droughts lead to
3. Extreme poverty The average yearly income is $391.00 which is less than $2.00 a day. Can you imagine working for even $2.00 an hour?! Millet is the main crop and the main source of food. The majority of farms are worked by hand. When the drought comes, the harvest fails, and people don't have jobs, making for very hard times. Niger is rated #167 out of 169 countries on the Human Development Index.
The poverty results in inadequate health care. Doctors and nurses are overworked as there are three doctors per 100,000 people. Of course that is an average...in cities it is much higher and in rural areas it is much lower.
About 40% of Niger's children are moderately to severely underweight. Our little neighbor girl, for example, was 10 and looked like a six year old. 167 babies out of every 1,000 will not live to see their 5th birthday. The average life expectancy in Niger is 51 years old. That makes me among the old people! This man was our neighbor in Tera and was a very old man at about 70 years old.
Only 37% of Niger's primary age children go to school. For example, the man pictured above and his wife had eight children and only two of them went to primary school. The literacy rate in Niger is 42.9% among men and 15.1% among women.
Niger also faces the challenge of
4. A fast growing population When John gave his presentation in chapel somebody was quite vocal about children being a gift from God and then they got up and walked out. We are NOT saying that family size should be limited. We were simply stating the fact that Niger's population growth rate is 3.9%, the 3rd fastest growing in the world. Most families cannot be fed on the amount of grain they are able to raise each year. The problem is mainly polygamy, not God blessing families with children. So please don't misunderstand me here!
Each woman bears an average of 7 children. So if there are two wives, that's 14 children; three wives, 21 children; four wives, 28 children. Or more. My dear friend seen in this picture has had 11 children. She is one of three wives. (Not all the children in this picture are hers....most of her children aren't in the picture.) Half of Niger's population is under the age of 15.
The final challenge of Niger is that of
5. Islam I won't elaborate much here since this is a public site. The statistic of how many in Niger are Christian is debated, but Operation World says only .33% of Niger's population are Christians. We have a deep love and respect for our Muslim friends in Niger, but we long to see them come to know Christ as their Savior.
Niger has made many improvements in the years that we've been there. They continue to address the issues and are doing much to improve healthy living, to encourage girls to go to school, etc.
SIM Niger, as well as other missions and non-profit organizations are doing what they can to help. We'd love for you to volunteer a year or more of your time to come to Niger to work. We have positions in church planting, medical work, agricultural work, health teaching, education, literacy, translation, IT, theological training, and education of missionary kids. Please visit SIM's web site and have a look at the Niger page.