There was a serious food crisis unfolding in Niger and other parts of the Sahel at the time of my appointment to the UNICEF office in Niamey. I was charged with leading a media mission into Maradi and Zinder, two hard hit areas, with Terry Ally, a colleague from the UNICEF UK national committee, as well as a top photographer from Getty Images.
The photographer, Marco di Lauro, had already documented many, many scenes from war zones such as Afghanistan, We would be accompanied by a fourteen men convoy, as al-Qaeda was also a threat in the area at the time. I would be the only woman on the team.
Marco is pictured with two of the security men. He would eventually go on to win first prize in his category at the prestigious World Press Awards. But more importantly, we contributed to raising the profile of a region in serious distress.
Unfortunately, food crisis and famines are recurring problems in a country and region that suffers from recurring droughts. According to the United Nations and the European Commission’s humanitarian arm, ECHO, 20 million people were food insecure in the Sahel during 2014, with 1 in 8 inhabitants suffering from food insecurity. Children in the Sahel are among the world’s most malnourished. Affected countries include those in conflict, such as Mali and the Central African Republic.
Communities have learned to be resourceful and, together with their governments and international/local organisations, continue to look at ways to adapt to and mitigate historical environmental challenges and the hazards of climate change.
Pastoralists, including the two Tuareg men pictured here, were struggling with the upkeep of their families. The devastation of their livelihoods was immediately apparent: cattle lay dead and dying under the searing heat, whilst food prices continued to rise and rise.
Click here for an ECHO factsheet about the Sahel crisis
Go here for Marco’s work