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A girl washes clothes as families stand outside a school used as a shelter for Internally Displaced People (IDP) from northern Burkina Faso on June 13, 2019 in Ouagadougou.
Escalating crisis

Burkina Faso

Rising violence in the West African nation of Burkina Faso has uprooted nearly 500,000 people from their homes. The International Rescue Committee is on the ground providing urgently-needed assistance to displaced people and the local communities where they have found shelter.

Country facts
  • Total Population: 19.19 million
  • Number of people displaced by crisis: 486,000+
  • Rank in Human Development Index: 183 of 189
IRC response
  • Started work in Burkina Faso: 2019
  • People assisted in Burkina Faso: 2,675
  • People the IRC hopes to reach in Burkina Faso: 40,800

Crisis briefing

Burkina Faso has suffered from a spike in attacks from militant groups, leading to an increase in violence and displacement. The country is also under pressure from tense regional dynamics as international armed groups strengthen their presence in the region. The IRC is providing urgent and lifesaving assistance in the town of Djibo, where tens of thousands of people displaced by the crisis have sought refuge.

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What caused the crisis in Burkina Faso?

Burkina Faso, located in West Africa, has seen an increase in violent attacks since January 2016, which in turn has led to mass internal displacement in the Sahel, Center-North and East regions of the country. Ethnic and religious conflicts are also on the rise, along with cattle raiding and other clashes within communities.

The growing violence has forced people to leave their homes, fields, farm animals and livelihoods behind. Many farmers have missed a planting season, contributing to the scarcity of food—especially during the “lean season” between harvests. And there is concern that people will not be able to return to their land in time to sow the next season’s crops. 

The number of displaced continues to rise into the hundreds of thousands, and may be even higher than estimated if people who are not formally registered are counted. 

What are the humanitarian challenges in Burkina Faso?

The crisis has left an estimated 1.3 million people in Burkina Faso in critical need of assistance.

With food already becoming more scarce as a result of violence, the May-August “lean season” between harvests has exacerbated humanitarian needs. Some 676,000 people lack access to sufficient, affordable and nutritious food.

Health centers have been forced to close. Some 626,000 people have been affected by these closures or other reductions in health services. 

Attacks on schools have forced children out of classrooms. As many as 330,000 students have been affected by closures of schools. 

In addition, the arrival of hundreds of thousands of displaced people has stretched water supplies and sanitation facilities in the places where they have found shelter, putting communities at risk for potential outbreaks of water-borne disease.

How does the IRC help in Burkina Faso?

The IRC is focusing on delivering clean water and bolstering sanitation services in the town of Djibo, which is in need of support as it hosts tens of thousands of people fleeing violence. Almost 40 percent of all those displaced have sought refuge in Soum, the province in the northern Sahel region where Djibo is located.

We are working to provide clean water access to some 19,000 people in Djibo by drilling boreholes, upgrading existing water points, and rehabilitating and hand pumps. We plan to expand to nearby areas, where in addition to rehabilitating water points, we will set up community latrines, support two health centers, and provide soap and other hygiene items to uprooted families.