Birth Control in Niger: Population Explosion
HAOWA was already struggling to feed five children before she gave birth to triplets in the Gabi region of southern Niger 19 months ago. Now, when her babies scream for food she often finds herself helpless. “If they cry and I have nothing to give them, then I must let them cry,” she says, cradling two infants who bear the hallmarks of malnutrition. Their hair is yellowing, their bellies are distended and their expressions glazed. They lack the energy to shake the flies from their faces. It is a dismal but depressingly common picture in west Africa’s largest country.
Niger is, by the reckoning of the UN’s Human Development Index, the poorest place on earth. Most of its inhabitants eke out a living growing subsistence crops on small plots of dusty, infertile land. Despite this agricultural bias, the drought-stricken country cannot feed itself, even in good years. An estimated 2.5m people out of a total of 17m have no secure source of food. When harvests fail, which they do almost annually, that number shoots up. In 2012, when the worst of the recent food crises ravaged the Sahel region, almost a quarter of Niger’s population was said to be going hungry, prompting desperate relief campaigns by international donors.