Photo: Jean-Luc Luyssen for Action Against Hunger
Displacement and Hunger: An unprecedented crisis in Burkina Faso
A rise in violence and climate change are causing major food shortages across the country. Jean-Michel Grand, our Executive Director, describes the situation and what’s being done tackle the complex emergency.
May 20 2019
Burkina Faso and the wider Sahel region in Africa is in the middle of a serious crisis. Access to jobs, education and health care, conflict and the effects of climate change are affecting millions of people. Burkina Faso has a growing population but the unequal distribution of wealth continues to put communities at risk of malnutrition. Undernutrition is widespread, with 8.6% of the population classed as acutely malnourished in 2017.
CONFLICT AND HUNGER
Earlier this month, 150,000 civilians fled their communities because of escalating violence in the country. The International Rescue Committee – currently leading a consortium of four charities (including Action Against Hunger) focused on improving access to nutrition and treatment – described the number of people displaced by conflict as 'unprecedented'. The violence is driven by community disputes and conflict over land, but it’s also linked to the growth of terrorist and insurgent groups in the region such as Boko Haram, Al-Qaeda and ISIS. The conflict in the north of the country has accelerated the crisis, creating the largest internal displacement in the country's recorded history.
Violence has prevented the delivery of humanitarian aid, which already had huge problems with accessibility. Poor and non-existent roads were already constant challenges and potholes can be so big that locals called them “elephant nests".
Over two and half million people in Burkina Faso are now suffering from food insecurity due to food shortages and rising prices. The influx of refugees crossing the border into Burkina Faso from Mali and Niger – countries in the Sahel region suffering from similar challenges of conflict and hunger – is also placing a strain on the country's resources.
Along with conflict, climate change also threatens to undermine farmers’ livelihoods. Flash floods and drought have consistently destroyed crops, roads and houses leaving thousands in need and children suffering from severe acute malnutrition.
Climate change will create new challenges for vulnerable communities in Burkina Faso who are dependent on farming. So far, the biggest effects have been shorter, more violent spells of heavy, tropical rain. Too much or too little rain can have disastrous consequences, and climate change will bring even more uncertainty.
Despite the many challenges, hope remains for communities in Burkina Faso. Thanks to our support, mothers receive packs of seeds, soil and tools as part of our gardening and resilience programmes. This allows them to grow the nutritious fruit and vegetables – reducing the threat of poor nutrition during pregnancy. Mothers are now also able to support their children and sell some of the extra produce at the market.
"All the women working in the garden get along very well." said Ouoaba, president of community garden initiative in the village of Birminga. "We have made new friends while working together here. The most important thing is that our children are much happier now. They are stronger, they smile more, they get over illnesses faster, and they grow faster."
To combat climate change, particularly in the east of the country, the Building the Resilience and Adaptation of the local population to the Climate Extreme and Natural Disasters (BRACED) project has helped support farmers with solar powered boreholes. The project has also helped build new levees to protect farms from flash flooding.
It does not take a lot to help farmers improve their product and their livelihoods. But it needs consistent investment and time to bring about changes in agricultural practices.
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