Abdoulkader Issoufou is working with Reseau Projection, with a group of 26 other young water professionals, to edit and translate the daily newsletter of the World Water Forum. Abdoulkader is from Niger, is otherwise employed by Save the Children, and runs the NGO (non-governmental organization) Ong Tassa.
His story is different from many of his Reseau Projection colleagues, who are Americans, Europeans, and others from around the world. His reasons for engaging in the World Water Forum are hard-hitting and have affected his family for his whole life. He has come to the Forum to help create real solutions to water crises in the world. For him, the problems of sanitation and safe drinking water are not only topics of discussion, but facts of life.
The country of Niger is land-locked, and is one of the hottest countries in the world. There are problems threatening the population and ecosystems, including overgrazing, soil erosion, deforestation, desertification, and threatened wildlife populations (such as elephant, hippopotamus, giraffe, and lion). Water is the key for each of these issues. According to the Fondation Chirac, more than 110 million people depend on the Niger River Basin. Meanwhile, the disease burden is high – half of the Sub-Saharan population suffers from water-related illness.
While Niger has already been stressed by water scarcity, civil wars in the neighboring country of Mali have forced refugees to seek shelter in Niger’s nearby towns. Since the start of 2012, more than 15,000 Malians have arrived across the border, entering a region of western Niger adding pressure in an area that is already plagued by drought and poor harvests. As one example of the growing population, the village of Chinagoder usually holds approximately 1,700 residents but now holds more than 6,500 people, mostly Malian families who arrived with no resources (Issa, Inter Press Service News Agency).
So, what solutions can be found at the World Water Forum to assist the drought-stricken villages of Niger? With 173 countries represented, over 100 ministers conversing, and nearly 1,500 solutions shown, one would be hopeful that real commitments will be cemented. One possible solution was accomplished on Monday, March 12 at the Forum. The “Solidarity for Water in Niger Basin Countries” declaration was signed by the President of Niger, Mahamadou Issoufou and the President of Chad, Idriss Deby Itno. The Fondation Chirac is now calling on the seven other member states of the Niger Basin Authority (Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Guinea, Mali, Nigeria) to commit to increasing trans-boundary cooperation and innovation by signing the text.
So, what does my new friend Abdoulkader Issoufou feel about the World Water Forum? Listen to find out!