At the August 1998 World Conference of Ministers Responsible for Youth in Lisbon, Portugal, the Nigerien Minster of Youth and National Integration Abdourahamane Seydou stated that: “The youth of Niger represent, the future and the hope of the nation...they represent the key motor of national development...They represent the starting point of an economic and cultural independence”
According to the United Nations Development Program, Niger is one of the least developed countries in the world. Niger’s natural obstacles to growth include its landlocked position, limited arable land, and the vulnerability of its agriculturally based economy to the harsh, drought-prone climatic conditions (information source-Niger Net).
UNICEF states that 63% of the population in Niger lives under the poverty level. There is a high rate of illiteracy in Niger and women only have a 6.6% literacy rate. The educational system in Niger is defunct. With 49% of the population under fifteen years old, Niger could soon be a country in crisis.
Over thirty different ethnic groups have been identified in Niger. From time to time, there has been conflict between these ethnic groups. Hoops4Kids, Inc. believes that there needs to be more positive interaction between the ethnic groups. The city of Niamey is comprised of children from all ethnic groups and socioeconomic background. The Hoops4Kids, Inc. Basketball Camp is open to children of all ethnic groups and socioeconomic backgrounds. The coaches are also from different ethnic groups and socioeconomic backgrounds.
Many women in Niger do not have the opportunities that the women in the United States and other countries have. According to UNICEF, half of the girls in Niger are either pregnant or they have a child by the time they reach seventeen. Women in Niger are not encouraged to participate in sports. In fact, the 1996 Olympic Games was the first time a Nigerien woman participated in the Olympics. They are not aware of the importance of physical activity to stay healthy. One aspect of Hoops4Kids, Inc. will be focusing on girls’ participation and women coaches will serve as role models.
Like many other countries, the HIV/AIDS epidemic has taken a toll on countless people throughout Niger. Whether it be those who are infected or those affected by the illness of a loved one, this widespread disease has hindered the people of Niger in many ways; limiting the opportunities of many and reducing the human capital that some maintain.
In 2018, UNAIDS estimated that over 36,000 people are living with HIV/AIDS in Niger; out of these, approximately 72% of people know their HIV status, leaving about 10,000 PLWHA (People Living with HIV/AIDS) at-risk. Currently, only 54% of PLWHA are receiving Antiretroviral Therapy, the necessary medical care to treat and suppress HIV/AIDS.
In Niger there are many misconceptions surrounding the transmission of HIV; in a UNAIDS survey, over 71% of Nigeriens said that they would not buy fresh fruits/vegetables from someone who is HIV positive. HOOPS4KIDS has aimed to discredit false stigmas surrounding PLWHA (people living with HIV/AIDS) through health education courses provided to camp participants. In these learning environments, doctors and health professionals are brought in to further educate these kids on HIV/AIDS and other health concerns. The education of these kids contributes to breaking absurd narratives that are associated with HIV/AIDS and providing them with accurate information surrounding the topics of treatment and prevention. These health education classes have created a space where kids are able to obtain vital information which they may not learn otherwise; they'll receive knowledge that will prove useful for the rest of their lives, benefitting many beyond themselves and their loved ones. Though HOOPS4KIDS is only a small organization, we hope that our slight contribution will create more awareness, bringing us closer to an AIDS-free world.