How coronavirus is affecting Niger
20 August 2020
Niger is the largest country in Western Africa and much of it is is covered by the Sahara desert. The country is very reliant on farming, but frequently suffers droughts and food shortages, with nearly 10 million people living in extreme poverty.
Niger also has a very weak health system and faces significant challenges in spreading accurate information about coronavirus and prevention measures.
We spoke to Tranquilin Elema, CAFOD’s Resilience and Humanitarian Programme Officer in Niger, about specific areas of the work you are funding in the fight against coronavirus.
How is coronavirus affecting Niger?
The level of knowledge in the population on prevention measures remains low and certain cultural habits and behaviours make the risk of the virus spreading more likely.
At the beginning of August, Niger had recorded 1158 confirmed positive cases among which 1062 have been cured, 69 have died and 27 are undergoing treatment.
The worry is that this situation could worsen at any time and cause enormous damage, so the government and aid agencies have worked quickly to strengthen measures to stop the spread of the pandemic.
What are the particular challenges to fighting coronavirus?
You are supporting the work of local organisations to identify places and habits that are sometimes not given enough attention and may help spread the virus.
More than 80% of positive coronavirus cases are in our capital city, Niamey, and our analysis showed that fast food outlets there needed special attention:
- These fast-food outlets that sell smoked meat do not have a proper hand washing kit or station and if they have one, it is in very poor condition;
- Customers eat mainly by hand and usually from the same plate;
- Customers do not wash their hands systematically because either they are not well informed of the risk or there is no appropriate hand washing kit.
- Other hygiene measures such as wearing of masks and social distancing are not respected due to lack of knowledge or lack of hygiene kits.
We checked on protection measures in places of worship and also observed that gyms and fitness centres where everyone uses the same equipment were an area of risk.
"The worry is that this situation could worsen at any time and cause enormous damage."
Tranquilin Elema, CAFOD’s Resilience and Humanitarian Programme Officer in Niger
How is CAFOD responding to coronavirus?
At roadside fast-food outlets, fitness centres and mosques you have helped to fund liquid soaps, disinfectant gels and the installation of hand washing stations.
The hand washing station you are helping to supply has been designed locally to further reduce the risk of the virus spreading. It is operated with a foot pedal to minimise contact and contamination.
While hygiene materials were being given out, our local experts and volunteers took the opportunity to inform everyone in the local area about how to fight against the spread of Covid-19.
As the coronavirus pandemic is also a health emergency, you are also helping to support 36 health centres run by the Catholic Church in Niger.