The administration in Niamey passes an economic stimulus of sorts for Niger:
Niger has given a pay rise to tens of thousands of civil servants and cut the price of water and electricity in an effort to stave off social unrest in one of Africa’s poorest nations, the government said.
President Mahamadou Issoufou promised the changes during the election campaign last year, and the government held months of talks with unions.
“We hope the agreement that has been signed will guarantee long-term social peace for us and allow the government to work in peace and quiet on its programme to re-launch the country,” government spokesman Marou Amadou said on state television late on Tuesday.
President Issoufou will likely win some popularity with this initiative. But Niger’s troubles are still many.
For one, there is the refugee influx caused by the rebellion in neighboring Mali.
The International Committee of the Red Cross says 10,000 people have crossed into Niger after fighting in towns just across the border, and the ICRC is preparing to provide food and shelter.
Local aid groups are warning of an impending humanitarian catastrophe. The refugee burden from Mali comes just on the heels of last year’s civil war in Libya, which sent tens of thousands of refugees pouring into northern Niger.
More than three million people in Niger are at risk of severe food shortages in what could be a looming humanitarian crisis, according to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies West Africa branch.
Per Becker, the Regional Disaster Risk Management Coordinator for the Red Cross’ Dakar office, said the situation is expected to get worse. “The numbers of people that we are expecting being malnourished is just increasing all the time,” he said. “We are now seeing over three million people facing hunger and food insecurity for this lean period. The lean period is mainly between April and August, but this year it comes early because of the failed harvests they’ve had.”
Issoufou’s rule – he is approaching one year in power – has seemed relatively stable in terms of Niger’s domestic politics. But the country is beset by problems, from violence at its doorstep to the hunger within its borders.