Niger, Communications and UNICEF

Zinder: blanket feeding
Zinder: blanket feeding for children under two in selected districts


Back in 2010 when I was working there as a communications specialist for UNICEF, Niger was facing a humanitarian crisis – a severe food crisis bordering on famine. Drought and high food prices had hugely distressed Nigeriens, especially outside the capital, Niamey: villagers such as the pastoralist pictured below (name withheld) and the two Tuareg men were seeing their livestock dying off because of the lack of food. ‘This year there was so little rain during the growing season that not only did the fields of millet not bloom, but the secondary greens used for animal fodder also failed.’*

By 10 October 2010, 263,273 children had been treated for severe acute malnutrition at nutrition rehabilitation centres. **

The World Food Programme told the BBC that 17 per cent of children (one in five) were acutely malnourished. This was well above WFP’s normal 15 per cent threshold for declaring an emergency.

Droughts followed by heavy rains that lead to floods in the Sahel region are, in fact, cyclical problems. Today, environmental challenges are exacerbated by population displacements caused by neighbouring conflicts in Mali, Nigeria and Libya.

And yet, life has to go on for the average Nigerien, even in the midst of a crisis. This includes being gainfully employed and supporting the country economically and socially, while solid sustainable solutions are sought for its current problems and longer term growth.

That search continues.

* BBC News 2010 report

** UNICEF Humanitarian Action for Children 2011








K’Mariko – fashion designer

You’ll have to forgive my dodgy photography on this one. This was five years ago. Hopefully you’ll agree that I’ve improved since then. But I stumbled on these photos and thought it worth taking a short trip down memory lane. This fashion show is a recording of a lighter moment in Niger, 2010, during my (unrelated) mission with UNICEF. The designer, K’Mariko, (not pictured here) is still in Niger and going strong. You can find more about her here – kmariko



Rule of Law and other things

British Library NewsroomI’m spending the day at the British Library, one of my favourite work hubs, as I mentioned in a previous post. This time I’m on the second floor in the Newsroom. The wing doesn’t necessarily just house seasoned hacks beavering away. There is a big screen viewing rolling news (on mute) from various channels and print media such as Sky, BBC News and Buzzfeed. But I managed to bag myself a semi-enclosed enclave where I could juice up my gadgets (iPhone, iPad) to my heart’s content, read, and try not to get distracted by the ever-changing news stories rolling across the screen.

Today I’m putting some extra focus into my online courses and reading. I’m trying not to take on more than I can cope with at one time, but there are some truly interesting MOOCs and professional development training courses out there. Some are refreshers for me, but I’m still learning new things.

My ipad and notebook

For now, I’m concentrating on the following:

Digital Marketing Channels – Planning, through Coursera. This includes modules in optimising digital assets including making all digital platforms (not just website but also mobiles and tablets) more user friendly; writing for digital; online and video marketing; and planning for digital campaigns. This course has been a great find.

Humanitarian Communications – again through Coursera. I actually did this course back in May this year, and it has now finished (though another is scheduled for next year). But I’m going through the materials again. So far I’ve been reading about the key concepts of communications which is obviously useful for comms in general, not only in the field of humanitarian work.

(I’m trying not to get too distracted because there’s an interesting BBC Radio 4 programme – ‘In Business’ – on China and its under-rated overtures towards environment sustainability, going on in the background).

Coming up is a FutureLearn online course (in collaboration with the BBC) on digital storytelling. I’m really looking forward to this.

Ongoing reading includes refreshing myself on the UN Charter and the Declaration of Human Rights. I’m also continuing studies through the Peace Operation Training Institute on International Humanitarian Law and on the United Nations. It’s all good.

And I’m reading the late Tom Bingham’s ‘The Rule of Law’ for about the third time. Okay its unashamedly anglocentric, but with reason in my opinion, and the writing is just so good and clear.

Tom Bingham cover

He says in the foreword: “I chose as my subject ‘The Rule of Law’. I did so because the expression was constantly on people’s lips, I was not quite sure what it meant, and I was not sure that all those who used the expression knew what they meant either, or meant the same thing”.

Then: “…interest in this subject has, I think, continued to grow, fortified by concerns about the interrelationship between the rule of law, human rights and civil liberties on the one hand and security against terrorist attack on the other.”

Like a lot of people, I enjoy the feel of book pages and giving my eyes a break from screens. But I’m trying to store all my books together on Kindle.  Helps with travelling light.