Thousands of displaced people in Burkina Faso, facing both a severe food crisis and an upsurge in armed violence, have to rely entirely on the government and humanitarian organizations. Forced to give up crops and livelihoods, these people are now extremely vulnerable.

The facts are simple: Burkina Faso’s 2021 growing season was one of the worst in recent years due to extremely rare rainfall in about 20 of the country’s 45 provinces. In many cases, the people who managed to plant the seeds had nothing to harvest. This situation has resulted in a grain shortage of 461,000 tons throughout the country. More than 450,000 hectares of arable land were left fallow in 2021 due to rising levels of violence, according to the government.
Over ten million people are malnourished in the Sahel region more broadly, and the situation improved slightly in 2022.

“Only God knows why I’m still alive”

We met Salimata Ouedraogo in Ouahiguia, where she now lives, when she traveled to various places where migrants like her gathered. She was hoping to accidentally get a food distribution so she could have something to eat for a few days. There is no such luck.

“There is less help, I have been walking for several hours. Even though I searched the whole city, I didn’t find anything. But I cannot return empty-handed – my children are waiting for me and hoping to eat.”

Just over 400 kilometers away, in the eastern town of Fada n’Gourma, Luari Amsatu faces a similar predicament. This 29-year-old woman, also displaced, gave birth to twins a week ago. Taking them with her, she resumed her usual wanderings around the city in search of food. “When I was pregnant, I was diagnosed with malnutrition and anemia. God only knows why I’m still alive. Ever since I left my home, I have relied on the goodwill of the people. all in the same boat,” she sighs.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture, more than 2,800,000 people suffer from food insecurity. The new weather patterns have already turned 50,000 hectares of farmland into barren fields.
Diabri Usman, who came to Fada N’Gourma two years ago, witnessed this up close. Due to climate change, he could not grow anything on the half hectare of dry land he received from a benefactor. “I thought that I would regain my dignity, that I would no longer have to rely on help, but my hopes evaporated,” he says.

“Hunger Kills”

The ICRC helps communities in need by distributing food and money to buy groceries. More than 4,800 people in Ouahigui and Séguenegue in the Northern Region of Burkina Faso received food money. Three more such giveaways will be held to help those who have benefited from our program survive the food crisis.

In Wahiguya, special attention is paid to children and pregnant and lactating women who receive fortified flour. To date, about 400 children and more than 8,800 women have received assistance. Fortified flour was also provided to nearly 1,900 malnourished women and children at the ICRC-supported health center in Fada n’Gourma.

Haruna Sawadogo is the head nurse at the medical center in Fada N’Gurma. “When there is not enough nutritious food, people go hungry, and hunger kills,” she says. “Malnutrition is also a problem. It causes stunting in young children, while severe malnutrition can lead to death in the medium term.”

What’s more, pregnant women can “experience miscarriages, preterm labor and obstructed labor,” she adds. “And malnourished breastfeeding women struggle to provide their children with essential nutrients, who may end up suffering from malnutrition themselves.”

The ICRC also has an initiative to help people reclaim abandoned farmland. For example, 300 displaced people have paid for 56 hectares of land to be fertilized by 75 families in Ouaguiuia.

“We are stepping up our efforts in the Wahiguya area,” says Moderatus Quitonda, an ICRC delegate. “People are suffering terribly and the ICRC alone cannot meet everyone’s needs. I call on all organizations operating in this region to join forces and turn their good intentions into concrete actions.”

Key figures for 2021

  • About 80,000 displaced people in Burkina Faso’s Nord and Sahel regions received three food rations (millet, rice, cowpea, vegetable oil and fortified flour). Some of these people also received financial assistance.
  • More than 32,000 people in the Eastern, Northern and Sahel regions, both residents and displaced people, received onion, tomato, millet, sorghum and cowpea seeds to grow cash crops. Agricultural implements such as watering cans and hoes were also provided.
  • Over 38,500 farms have benefited from the livestock vaccination and deworming program. These preventive measures covered 465,000 cattle and nearly 700,000 sheep and goats in the Est and Sahel regions. Some 4,000 people from these households also received livestock feed.

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