Context – The situation of the Church in Niger:
Niger is a Sahelian country, 96% Muslim. The number of Catholics is estimated to be around 25,000. Niger is a poor country suffering from terrorism and now from COVID.
The Catholic Church in Niger, which has had a strong presence in the country since the 1960s, the year of the country’s independence, is very active in the basic social sectors of education, health, rural development and the promotion of women.
Facing the Covid 19
Sister distributing food to needy people Many measures have been taken to control the spread of the virus, including the closure of schools, mosques and churches, the establishment of closed health zones, curfews (9 p.m. to 5 a.m.), compulsory wearing of masks, etc.
Since 19th March, the Churches are closed and the Christians are now praying at home within their families. According to Rev. OUEDRAOGO, bishop of Maradi, the second largest city in the country: « The civil authorities are making admirable efforts to check the damage done by the coronavirus, with information and awareness-raising campaigns, informing people about the epidemic, the hygiene measures to be adopted and, above all, the importance of avoiding big gatherings and meetings ». However, this last aspect is proving extremely difficult, “because the markets are vital to people’s daily survival, which results in big crowds and facilitates the spread of the virus. » According to Rev. LOMPO, Archbishop of Niamey: « Our country’s economy has come to a standstill. In addition to the health problems, we are very concerned about the small households whose livelihood activities have been stopped. We are worried about people living in rural areas who may not have food in the next few weeks. »
Testimony from Sisters of the congregation « Fraternity of the Servants of Christ » in Maradi
The congregation « Fraternity of the Servants of Christ » is a small community based in the Diocese of Maradi for the past 12 years. The sisters run a school in the community of Tibiri and a nutrition centre in the community of Dan Bako. Rev. Mother Marie Catherine explains the impact of the health crisis on their missions: « The school has been closed since March 20th. Our resident girls are back with their families. There are still about twenty who could not return home because of the insecurity. Their village is on the border with Burkina Faso (more than 1,000 kilometres from Tibiri) and the transport costs are also very high there. We preferred to keep them by taking them to our community in Dan Bako but all the other residents of the surrounding villages have returned to their families.
The nutrition centre, which usually accommodates 300 to 400 malnourished children, was closed on 19 March. Sister André, in charge of the Centre, had taken care to give the women nutritional flour for three weeks. We plan to reopen the centre because there are malnourished children who are currently in a situation of great suffering. » To help people in distress, the sisters decided to provide the 500 women who attend their nutrition centre in Dan Bako with kits consisting of a bucket, masks, soap pieces and liquid soap. The sisters make liquid and lump soap, as well as masks. The buckets are made by local workers. To show solidarity with villages that do not have water, they decided to distribute free water from their borehole in Dan Bako which normally allowed them to have a small income, to maintain the borehole and to pay the employee.
« May the power of the Risen Lord eradicate this pandemic that is disturbing all humanity and may the Holy Spirit direct hearts to more humanity, justice and peace. » Rev. Mother Marie Catherine