With great emotion, Fati remembers the day she learned she could no longer join the members of her association due to social distancing measures put in place by the government to prevent the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) last spring. “This group is more than an association for me. It is my family. It would be very taxing for me to separate from them,” she said.
Niger’s announcement of its first COVID-19 case in March 2020 brought a halt to economic activities, especially those of the Nigerien Association of the Locomotive Disabled (ANHL), chaired for a few years by the determined fifty-something. “We are around 30 women and we meet twice a week to coordinate income-generating activities that we have created together”, she said. “This place is more than an association for us, it is also a space of solidarity and support. This is what keeps us dynamic. “
When the health situation stabilized and restrictions were lifted in May 2020, Fati and her friends decided to fight the virus with their weapons, sewing machines and fabrics. They have made nearly 33,000 masks since the start of the pandemic. Given that wearing a mask is one of the best ways to avoid catching the virus, along with frequent hand washing, “We decided to make the masks from local materials. Our masks meet quality standards”, proudly assures Fati. “They cost only 700 CFA francs ($ 1.5) and can be reused for several years if properly maintained. ”
Fati’s six children were her first ‘clients’. “My priority is their well-being, and I want to make sure they grow up in a healthy environment and away from this miserable virus.”
Beyond the masks, which sell well and allow the members of the association to maintain an income during this difficult period, Fati and her “sisters” take part in health activities. In particular, they participate in awareness-raising workshops on good hygiene practices and adapting to crises and learning new skills to live with the virus.” We get used to it little by little and try to transform the challenges of the health crisis into opportunities.”
All these activities that improve resilience are part of many actions funded by the World Bank through the International Development Association (IDA) before and after the first cases of COVID-19 in Niger. They help the government mitigate the health and economic impact of the pandemic. Through the Niger COVID-19 Emergency Response Project, funded to the tune of $13.95 million, supports the rapid procurement of critical medication and equipment needed for treatment of coronavirus infections. Or the Niger Adaptive Social Safety Nets Project 2 which launched in September 2020 an emergency cash transfer program for 500,000 beneficiaries in the eight regions of the country, to enable them to cope in the short term with the consequences of the pandemic and be more resilient.
In July 2020, the Niger COVID-19 Emergency Response Project delivered $3 million worth of medication and equipment to the country, in collaboration with UNICEF. “Our health operations aim to boost Niger’s preparedness and ability to respond to the pandemic and protect the people most exposed to its damaging effects,” said Joelle Dehasse, World Bank Niger Country Manager. “Our goal is not only to save lives, but to help country build stronger, more resilient health systems to be better prepared for future disease and ensure no-one is left behind”.