Arrived in Niamey on Thursday, 6 September at 4:30 AM. Was welcomed at the airport by Gerard, my program manager, Moussa, M&E officer and our driver, Allasane, in our big bad white land cruiser.
First impression of Niamey – dusty, bad roads and overall impoverished with limited infrastructure. I’ve been to quite a few developing countries by now that places such as Niamey should not come as a surprise however upon hitting the ground, I always feel caught up in a web of emotions with thoughts like “I am finally here, what am I doing again” to “crap, this place is crazy poor”, and then I take a big breath, let it all sink in and then realize that the next four weeks is going to be one hell of a ride.
After a few hours of sleep, my team immediately put me to work by attending a nutrition cluster meeting at the Ministry of Health. Recent flooding have devastated homes and displaced thousands of people around the country and on top of that Niger is currently trying to cope with food insecurity, a locust invasion that threatens crops, consequences of the complex emergency in Mali as well as a cholera epidemic.
My organization recently received funding to respond to the needs of Malian refugees in Tahoua, northern Niger and I am here to mobilize that project. We also have an existing health project in South Central Niger (north of Sokoto, Nigeria) and I will be assisting the team in conducting a midterm evaluation. It should be interesting to venture off the capital in the next few weeks. For now, I am staying at Hotel Terminus, located in a nice, secure area in Niamey. The hotel is populated by the usual characters present in a disaster zone du jour – expat humanitarian workers, young and old, glued to their thinkpads, pretending not to see each other and plotting life saving interventions. I used to read a lot about these guys but ironically, I am now one of them!