Hospitals in dusty small towns. Young children lying on beds next to their mothers displaying familiar signs of severe malnutrition. Some survive, others don’t. Niger is one of the poorest countries on Earth with one of the highest rates of child mortality. This is a result of many factors, among them, endemic poverty, high population growth, and a lack of education on child nutrition. However, it is extreme weather and recurrent droughts in this vast arid strip of land that have continuously pushed communities over the edge, exasperating and making episodes like the ones described above more and more common. Niger is one of the countries that is most adversely affected by climate change. Rainy seasons have become much shorter and harder to predict, challenging communities to survive with lower quality, and quantities of food and water.
Climate change is not abstract for anyone here, it has become a harsh reality with real and concrete consequences on communities. When the rains don’t fall and changing seasons significantly impact crops and livestock, life becomes incredibly dire, especially for the most marginalized and vulnerable people of society.
But this is just one part of the story.
I see women and men in remote villages in Niger who are eager to use better technologies and improved, drought-resistant seeds. I see women who organize themselves into village saving and loan groups to ensure they have an alternative source of income to feed themselves and their children. More than anything I see people willing to adapt for the sake of their communities.
Mothers and fathers who do not want to leave their village but want to do whatever it takes to stay in the place they”ve called home for centuries.
My wish is that decision-makers at COP24 understand that preventing loss and damage is the key to ensure that no further irreversible harm is caused. We must save lives. We can no longer wait for communities to be stuck by climate-induced disasters over and over again.