The bustling market of Maradi, Niger’s second-largest city, is a testament to the economic struggles faced by the country’s citizens. Prices for essential goods such as cooking oil, salt, cowpeas and dried baobab fruit have all drastically increased since last year, leaving merchants and customers alike feeling the pinch. The cause of this inflation is multifaceted, with factors such as people crossing the border to sell their produce in Nigeria, capital-lush wholesalers gobbling up the market and expensive fertiliser all contributing to the rise in prices.
The effects of the war in Ukraine are also being felt in Niger, one of the world’s poorest countries. Russia’s export restrictions on fertiliser, coupled with Western sanctions and safety concerns, have caused a global shortage of the product. This has had a knock-on effect on the price of locally grown staples such as maize and sorghum, which have risen to 1,300 CFA ($2.10) for three kilogrammes, up from 1,000 last year.
The situation has been exacerbated by climate change, which is making farming increasingly difficult in Niger’s semi-arid environment. With a gross domestic product (GDP) per capita of $595, the country ranks 189th out of 191 countries on the United Nations Human Development Index. NGOs and charities across the world have had to make programme cuts due to the war, with donor attention diverted to Ukraine. Even those that have been able to stave off budget cuts have not seen any increase in aid funding as humanitarian conditions worsen and living costs go up.
The situation is particularly dire for refugees streaming into Niger from neighbouring countries. Cuts last year to the World Food Programme’s monthly cash aid have left thousands hungry, driving people to beg for food or search for day labour in nearby towns. In Aguié health district alone, more than one in four children are malnourished and cases rose by 20 percent from last year.
2023 is set to be another year of extreme jeopardy for those struggling to feed their families. With prices still high in some areas amid global inflation, bulk orders for the next year need to be placed soon. Donors must take into account the inflation rate and how it could impact humanitarian operations in terms of the number of beneficiaries and services provided. It is only through increased aid funding that those affected by the war in Ukraine can hope for some respite from their economic woes.