Niger - Poverty and wealth

Rural people eke out a slim, almost life-threatening existence tending their herds or their small farm plots.

GDP per Capita (US$)
Country 1975 1980 1985 1990 1998
Niger 298 328 242 235 215
United States 19,364 21,529 23,200 25,363 29,683
Nigeria 301 314 230 258 256
Chad 252 176 235 228 230
SOURCE: United Nations. Human Development Report 2000; Trends in human development and per capita income.

Distribution of Income or Consumption by Percentage Share: Niger
Lowest 10% 0.8
Lowest 20% 2.6
Second 20% 7.1
Third 20% 13.9
Fourth 20% 23.1
Highest 20% 53.3
Highest 10% 35.4
Survey year: 1995
Note: This information refers to expenditure shares by percentiles of the population and is ranked by per capita expenditure.
SOURCE: 2000 World Development Indicators [CD-ROM].

Their houses are made of wood with dirt. They eat mostly cooked cereal and milk, but they rarely eat meat. Their clothes are secondhand, sent from Europe to be sold in local markets. Water comes from wells, cooking is done over wood fires, and lighting is from small kerosene wick lamps. Sanitation is provided by pit latrines. Children are unlikely to go to school, and there are seldom operating health facilities close-by.

In the towns, for those with employment, conditions tend to be better. The lower middle class lives in housing made of cement blocks with tin rooftops and concrete floors. There is electricity and water some of the time. Moreover, schools and dispensaries are close. The poor live in slums where they construct their shelters from scraps of material, plastic, and rusty metal sheets. They use pit latrines and communal water taps. Urban poor have better access to medical care and schools for their children, but there are shortages of these facilities, and often the charges are too high for a poverty-stricken family to afford.

Niger is a low income country, and 61 percent of the population were below the US$1 per day poverty line in 1992, with the incidence of poverty greatest in the rural areas. Niger is ranked 173 out of 174 countries in the United Nations Human Development Index.

Average life expectancy is estimated at 47 years, and this age is a significant improvement on the 1970 figure of 38 years. Infant mortality is estimated at 125 deaths per 1,000 births (in the United States the rate is 7 per 1,000) and 320 children out of every 1,000 will die before the age of 5. There are 3 doctors and 70 nurses per 100,000 people.

AIDS is a growing problem, and the Ministry of Health estimated that there were 93,008 sufferers in 1998, with 5,378 deaths attributed to the disease. A National Commission to combat AIDS was set up in 1987. However, Islamic groups still oppose the promotion of condoms.

Niger's educational provision outside towns is rudimentary, and class sizes are universally large. There is 1 university at Naimey, as well as several small colleges. However, they are very under-funded, and close frequently due to student or teacher strikes over grants and salaries. Adult literacy was 14 percent in 1997, primary school enrollment was 24 percent, and secondary was 9 percent. There is also a large disparity between men and women in terms of access to education, with almost twice as many males enrolled as females.

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