27 April 2009


Another week is off and running:
  • The Ecole Alliance girls are on vacation and they as well as Rebekah and Jonathan are finishing up their morning chores;
  • while they work, they are plotting and planning their costumes for a medieval festival/fun fair that will be held later on in the week;
  • I just ate toast with butter and RASPBERRY jelly (I found a jar while grocery shopping on Saturday and splurged - $6);
  • while writing I'm also searching for my vanilla wafer recipe because I'll need it to make banana pudding later this week (it is quite a good recipe, too... or I've been here long enough that it doesn't matter anymore);
  • it is quite warm and humid already this morning and the girls are hoping it rains (I have my doubts);
  • I'm looking forward to our second session of the high school swim program tomorrow;
  • Elsie Mae is listening to and singing along with lullabies while rocking her baby doll;
  • the peanut M&M is sleeping in her bouncy seat - as long as my foot rests on her tummy, bouncing the seat up and down;
  • the menagerie of animals has been fed;
  • email downloaded;
  • before too long, I need to get back to work on Sheep Tales;
  • and while all of this is going on, thoughts about what to pack up and store/what to pack up and take/what to give away/what to sell are tumbling around in my head as the May 1 deadline for "starting official preps for furlough" looms quite near.

Yesterday was an interesting morning at church. Someone had given so that the people of church needing meningitis vaccinations could receive them. So, a nurse (who I'm assuming is a Christian - she certainly enjoyed singing and dancing during the praise and worship time and "Amen-ed" several times while Tim was preaching) was there throughout the morning and both before and after the service, people lined up to receive the shot.

Most of the service, I was outside in the courtyard with Mary - she was hot and fussy and I didn't want her antics to disturb her daddy while he was preaching. So, I had quite a bit of time to observe. The nurse brought the meningitis vaccines already drawn up in prepared needles which she kept cool in a small water cooler (maybe held a gallon of water) filled with ice. Throughout the church service, when she'd get thirsty, she'd come out and pour off a little water from the melting ice to get a drink. Later, as people lined up for shots, they'd roll their sleeve up, cover their eyes or look away and she'd almost gleefully stab the needle into their arm. Then the needle would be discarded into a large bowl by her feet (I was more than a little nervous about that, especially with all of the kids running round… including my own), and the next person would begin rolling up their sleeve. I used to think Tim was awful about shots and needle pokes (after 8 pregnancies, I'm a little less than sympathetic to those who are wimpy about such things), but these folks were hilariously so. And, no one minded putting on a show of hysterics for the rest of the church to observe. :P Chalk that up as another lesson in culture. Hopefully, my younger children haven't been horribly traumatized after having watched these adults and their reactions.

While the procedure was a bit unsettling, I am thankful that our church family had this opportunity made available to them. March – May is the worst time for meningitis. Recently, I read this, this, this and this… and even though we've not heard of a lot of meningitis actually here in the city, it is a reality of life in Niger, especially for those who live where medical care and medications are not readily accessible. So, that started me thinking about other "realities" in the life of most Nigeriens, and I decided to share some survey results with you.

This survey was conducted by another organization working in Niger; they carried out the survey in villages near the bush churches where Tim regularly goes to preach, so I found it particularly interesting.

Here are some of the results they obtained:

Malaria, diarrhea, fevers, stomach pains and worms are the most commonly reported illnesses.
Only 20% of children under five were born in a health facility.
79% were born either at home, in the bush or elsewhere in the village.
36% of children received more than six months of exclusive breastfeeding (based on recommended minimum from the World Health Organization)
58% of the people were ill within the last month alone and 80% sought help
Out of all deaths reported inthe last year, 79% of those were children under the age of 5
Only 20% of the people have ever attended school in their lives
Only 40% of the kids who should be in school today actually are
Only 7% of the population have ever completed primary school
70% of people use forage pump wells and 30% use surface (contaminated) wells
25% of the people spend between 1-5 hours for EVERY trip to get water: some walking 3-5 km in the dry season (or year-round) to reach the nearest well.
79% of the people have no toilet facilities and go out into the bush
the rest use occasionally a shower area behind their hut - in the Fulani villages, there are no properly dug latrines
40% of the population uses soap when washing daily


  1. Wow, interesting indeed. I definitely need to be more thankful for my soap, toilet, and clean water supply - not to mention the readily available medical care and education - things I tend to forget about.

    I'm glad your church members were able to get the vaccines they needed! What does that sort of thing cost in Niger?

    I was very surprised at the 36% of infants being exclusively breastfed. I guess I expected that number to be a little higher - is there a stigma there for moms who nurse?

  2. Some vaccines are much cheaper here because they are subsidized by the WHO (i.e. yellow fever we can get here for $5 where as it is over $100 in the States). I'm figuring because of the epidemic in Nigeria this Spring as well as the resulting epidemic threat here, they were on the cheaper side this year. Last time our family was vaccinated for men. at the clinic, we payed about $240 for all of us.

    I think the key part about breastfeeding is the "exclusive" part. There is no stigma and most women do - even in the middle of church and they don't cover up (which can be kind of distracting for expat preachers... at first). Most women breastfeed for a long time, just not exclusively. Sometime around 3-4 months, they begin to give the babies "bouille" - a mixture of cooked millet and sometimes other grains and/or water/goat/camel milk, salt and sugar and sometimes crushed peanuts as well. They usually continue to breastfeed, until they decide they are ready to get pregnant again. There is actually a word in Zarma for a woman who gets pregnant while she is still breastfeeding the previous baby.

    I know firsthand how hard and exhausting it is to exclusively breastfeed through the hot season here (this is my third time around to do so), and my home is cooler, I have access to cold water and better nutrition than most women. Being on the verge of malnutrition themselves, which many village women are, makes it hard to nourish well your baby...

  3. your list at the beginning of the post reminds me of why men...need women...because a man would have only been able to do one of those things at a time...while you (a woman) are able to multitask... ;o) sounds like a busy day...and I cracked up over the description of the shots...I remember my mom giving a guys who was (not really) dying a shot of water which I guess hurts like the dickens and he was miraculously healed....hahah


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