Blinken promises aid on historic visit to Niger

Published date17 March 2023
Publication titleIrish Times (Dublin, Ireland)
Blinken flew there after a short trip to Ethiopia, where he met prime minister Abiy Ahmed, government figures, aid agency officials and human rights leaders

The US visit follows the withdrawal of French military forces from neighbouring Burkina Faso in February. French troops remain in Niger, despite civilian protests calling for them to leave. For more than a decade, the Sahel region, in which Niger is located, has seen growing insecurity as Islamist militant groups wage insurgencies.

In capital city Niamey, Blinken met Niger's foreign minister, Hassoumi Massoudou. He then went to meet Nigerien community leaders, with whom he spoke about security and programmes to integrate former fighters back into society.

His visit comes at a time when Niger is facing a humanitarian crisis, with nearly two million children under the age of five expected to be acutely malnourished this year. It also comes amid growing concern about the role that economic inequality and unemployment is playing in pushing locals into joining extremist groups.

More than 40 per cent of Niger's population of roughly 25 million were living in extreme poverty in 2021, according to the World Bank. Citizens say the situation is getting worse.

This seemed clear at the back of the main market in Maradi, one of Niger's biggest cities, where dozens of shops were recently shuttered because of unpaid rent.


Shoppers and businesspeople placed the blame on a range of issues, including the Ukraine war, climate change, and the long impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and related shutdowns.

Ibrahim Saadou, who runs a shop selling general supplies, said the cost of cooking oil has risen from 3,500 CFA (€5.33) before the Covid-19 pandemic to about 6,000 CFA (€9.14) now for five litres. Procuring it had also become more difficult, he said.

"It takes more time to get here than it did before."

Yacouba Alassane, who works with him, said: "The Ukrainian conflict has made the price rise up. I cannot tell you why because there are big dealers we go through."

He said the level of poverty he sees has also notably risen. "People don't have enough money to come and buy. They want things but don't have money to buy. Many, many are begging. There is...

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