Next week in the UK we are going to be celebrating the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. We have time off school and there are going to be street parties and lots of fun. This is not the sort of thing we do every day but generally our lives are good.
The prompt this week is a little different. We are going to share the life of two children in Niger which is not a happy place to be at the moment. There is a huge crisis with people not having enough food or water. Here are their stories:
Fatimata and her grandmother belong to the Felani tribe who are pastoralists. Owning cattle is very important to them.
The family’s animals died in 2010 during the food crisis and they have been struggling to find food ever since.
Fatimata says: ‘We used to have 3 cows, 6 goats and 5 sheep but they all died two years ago. After they died we were forced to work in the goldmine as we don’t have enough food to eat.
‘I always feel hungry, my stomach hurts and I have a headache.’
People are being forced underground to work in order to earn money to eat. The boys and men will risk their lives going deep underground to mine for gold.
The mine shafts and tunnels are not secured and often collapse. The women and girls work around the edge of the mine sifting the silt.
The landscape is barren and desolate. Dried up river beds and the arid land stretches and as far as the eye can see.
Fatimata has never been to school. Her Grandmother Amsata Issa, 65, says: ‘How can she go to school when we have no food.’
The work is physical and hard. The environment is harsh with temperatures soaring well over forty degrees celsius. Every day Fatimata and her grandmother collect and sift the silt in hope of finding flecks of gold.
They also bag up the silt that they have refined and then sell onto to others who work at the mine and will use water and chemicals to pan for the gold. Fatimata is one part of a long process of extracting the gold.
Fatimata says: ‘I’m very tired after spending the day working and often my arms ache. I wish that I didn’t have to come here and I would prefer to stay at home and be able to go to school.
‘When we do have food I like to eat beans but my favourite is cake.
‘After work if I’m not too tired I like to play babysitting with my friends. We’ll wrap up a flip flop and pretend it is a baby. We also really like to climb the trees.
‘When we had animals the cows were my favourite, I used to really like drinking the milk. When I grow up I would like to get married to somebody who has animals. I would like to have ten cows and walk with them to the pasture.’
Roukayatou and her family are profoundly affected by the food crisis. Her husband Hama Amadou has left the village to work in the gold mines as their crop failed last year and they have no food reserves at all.
Every year he goes to work in the mine during the dry season but this year he left early as the crop failed early and he knew they would have no food.
Four of Roukayatou’s children are sponsored by World Vision – the youngest is not.
Roukayatou says: ‘I’m really worried as I’ve not heard from my husband since he left six months ago. He has gone to work in the gold mine during the dry season every year since we got married. He always sends back money. This year I’ve heard nothing from him.’
Working in the gold mine is physically hard and dangerous work.
Four of Roukayatou’s five children are sponsored by World Vision and they are in school. Her eldest daughter Fatima Amadou, 16, eldest child (pictured) female, is doing a vocational sewing course. She hopes one day to be able to run her own tailoring business.
Her youngest daughter Bousraou Amadou, 5, will start school when she is seven but she would like to be a teacher when she grows up.
Roukayatou says: ‘The sponsorship makes a really big difference to our lives, my children can go to school and the projects that World Vision do in our village such as building the well and the seed bank really help us.’
‘I have been part of the women’s gardening group here in the village for seven years, usually the vegetables provide an income and food to feed us.
‘But this year I had an accident when I fell off a donkey and cart. This meant that I could not get to my garden to water the vegetables and my Meringa trees.
‘The food crisis is much worse this year, the crops failed earlier and we are now waiting for the rain to come so we can plant our seeds.
‘At the moment all we have to eat is a packet of corn soya blend from the World Food Programme. These are handed out free to under five year olds.
‘We have two packets at the moment, we eat half a packet at lunchtime and then half a packet at dinner time.’
This would amount to no more than a handful of food each.
‘I’m really worried and if my husband does not send me any money I will be forced to go to the capital Niamey to try and find work as a cleaner. My children will have to come with me meaning they will all have to leave school.’
The prompt is to write a letter to either Fatima or Roukayatou. You can tell them about your life or let them know how you feel about their story. The only restriction is that you must only use 100 words.