Located in the sweltering environs of West Africa, developing nation Niger is one of the poorest in the world; it was ranked 167 out of 169 countries in the 2010 United Nations (UN) Development Index. The Saharan desert overlies 80% of the country’s landmass, leaving the remaining non-desertified regions for subsistence farming and the rearing of livestock, practices that the rural inhabitants of the nation utilize to survive. There are a number of salient issues concerning life in Niger that expatriates should ruminate over before traveling to the region, specifically concerning health, safety and security.
Any expatriate considering Niger as a potential destination should be aware that Niger is lacking in medical facilities; even in the capital Niamey, the state-run hospitals and clinics are bereft of basic equipment, drugs and trained medical professionals. This dearth of professional healthcare means that people approach their local healers who practice the use of traditional and herbal medicines, often predicated on Koranic or Islamic methodologies.
The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that between 2000 and 2010, fewer than 300 doctors were actively treating people in Niger, meaning that there were 0.2 doctors per 10,000 people.
Nigerien women and children under five are exempt from health fees. Nevertheless, cultural norms dictate that women are often hesitant to use the government-run health services meaning that they often go without professional care during childbirth. This absence of healthcare during pregnancy and childbirth helps to explain reports that the chance of a woman in Niger dying from a pregnancy-related cause is one in 16.
There are a number of health risks in Niger that should be considered before an expatriate embarks upon a trip there. Firstly, deficient sanitation means that the chances of contracting water-borne diseases such as diarrhea and cholera are relatively high, especially during Niger’s rainy season. Malaria is another disease that is a threat to health; the WHO reported that in 2008, approximately one in five deaths among children under five in Niger resulted from the contraction of Malaria. Finally, just under 1%, or around 170,000 people are affected by HIV/AIDS. All of these health risks should be taken into consideration before making a move to this West African nation.
All individuals planning on traveling to Niger are required to have a yellow fever vaccination before they travel. If this is not done prior to travelling, it can sometimes be carried out at the airport.
Poverty in Niger is high; as a result, the levels of crime, particularly in Niamey, the country’s capital, are high. One of the most prevalent forms of crime that expatriates are at risk of is theft. There are particular areas of Niamey that it is advisable not to walk alone in including the areas around the Gaweye Hotel, the National Museum and Petit Marché. A lack of street lighting combined with a prevalence for theft mean that it is not advisable to walk at night.
Transport infrastructure in Niger is underdeveloped; the main mode of transport is via automobile, as no railway network exists at present. Construction of a railway connecting Niamey to Cotonou (the economic center of Benin) is due for completion in 2016.
Road systems within and between the major cities are predominantly paved, but elsewhere, certainly in more rural areas, the roads are unpaved and variously maintained.
Expats should proceed with caution; travelling at night anywhere in Niger is advised against so try to avoid doing so wherever possible. There are particular areas of Niger that foreign nationals are not permitted to travel through, including the province of Agadez, where the tempestuous security situation precludes the possibility of travel (many of the roads to the city are reported to be mined).
There is one international airport in Niger: the Diori Hamani International Airport, located in the capital Niamey.