But change is coming.
The other day, I was standing at the main entrance of the hospital. It was late afternoon and I had left a patient's bedside for a front-row seat of this year's first rain storm.
The humidity had been building for a few days, and without warning the sky changed from white to red. The wind picked up pace as the trees fought to keep their last dry leaves intact.
I had run to the nearest nurses station and announced to our medical- and pediatric-ward nurses that the rain was coming. Like a little girl finally getting a pony, I started to dance. They teased me.
Clearly I was the happiest in the room.
Not wanting to miss even the first drops, I had abandoned my colleagues to their disinterest and parked myself just outside a space we call the ER (not to be confused with an actual emergency department which houses lifesaving equipment, nurses high on adrenaline, and George Clooney) and waited for the show to begin.
On a normal day, the front gate of the hospital is a lively place crowded with bushtaxis, boys selling water, and patients' family members going and coming.
But on that day, the hot strong wind of the red sky drove everyone away. The mob scattered this way and that, seeking shelter before the clouds let go.
As the initial drops fell, apart from the remnant hoard of plasic bags, the streets were empty of all signs of life.
As the rain's momentum grew, the pavement steamed. The air was still as hot as before, and the sky just as red.
But within minutes the force of the downpour had washed the air free of dust and had cooled the earth several degrees.
As I welcomed the cold spray of rain on my face, I was unaware of the crowd that had formed in the room behind me. The same crew that had teased me were now standing with me, watching hope fall from the sky.
This was the first rain.
But Rainy Season shouldn't actually start for another month. Though, this first rain is normal...it is a little gift from God reminding us as she suffers under the scorching sun, that Niger has not been forgotten.
And while rain is a small gift, the hope it brings is huge. Hope that this year there will be more -than-average wet days...hope that the rain will make the millet and sorgum and onions grow...hope that the rain will keep away the locust and crop-eating insects at bay...hope that years of drought and insufficient crop-yield will end...hope that children will eat until their bellies are full!
So as I stare out the window, looking out over the Sahel, I pray for this country...for her land and for her people...that their hope would not be in the rain, but the Giver of the rain; not in the crops, but the One who designed the seed to grow.
And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (Romans 5:5)