800,000 people live in 26 cities under blockade in Burkina Faso since March 2022, with little or no access to basic supplies and facilities
2.2 million people are experiencing hunger, with the number expected to rise to 3.3 million by September 2023
In towns like Djibo, the capacity of the local health system is reduced by 83%, schools and markets are not operational due to insecurity
Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, 20 July 2023 — The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is calling for international attention to the humanitarian crisis in Burkina Faso, where almost 5 million people currently require humanitarian assistance. Over 800,000 individuals live in 26 cities under blockade with limited or no access to basic necessities which has led to an unprecedented food crisis. An estimated 2.2 million people are currently suffering from hunger in Burkina Faso, with that figure expected to rise to 3.3 million by September 2023. Among these figures, nearly 650,000 individuals are facing extreme hunger, meaning people are already starting to lose their lives from a lack of food (IPC phase 5). IRC is warning of the potential 50% rise of people experiencing hunger in the country in the next two months if immediate action is not taken.
This year’s humanitarian response plan (HRP) for Burkina Faso is severely underfunded, with nutrition services funded at less than 25% of the total required to meet the needs of people experiencing extreme hunger. IRC is calling for international leaders and donors to fully fund the Burkina Faso HRP and for key stakeholders to engage in meaningful dialogue to garner access to populations most in need of humanitarian assistance.
The number of closed health facilities due to insecurity in Burkina Faso continues to rise, with 195 closures in August 2022 compared to 183 in August 2021, depriving the population of essential health services and restricting access to services for preventing and treating malnutrition. It is estimated that approximately 400,000 children under the age of five in the country will likely suffer from acute malnutrition during the lean season of 2023. This crisis is also negatively impacting education in Burkina Faso, with over 6,000 schools closed due to conflict and insecurity in many towns.
The Sahel region is extremely affected by insecurity and difficulties in accessing markets. Several towns, for example Djibo, in Burkina Faso are not accessible by land or are under blockade, leaving people unable to afford basic necessities such as food or access essential services. The Cadre harmonisé indicates that, for the first time since data collection began, nearly 40,000 people are facing extreme hunger in the Sahel region. In Djibo, where the population heavily relies on agricultural productivity, access to farmland is severely limited, resulting in a 65% decrease in food production between 2019 and 2021. Food assistance efforts by Burkinabe authorities and humanitarian organisations remain insufficient, and it is imperative to urgently find more sustainable and cost-effective solutions. In Djibo, operational health centres have been reduced by 83% since the beginning of 2022. Despite the perceived overall stability, insecurity in the northern part of the country continues to disrupt internal grain flows, leading to a decrease in market supplies in various localities in the Centre-North, North, and Sahel regions.
Modou Diaw, Regional Vice President for IRC West Africa, said,
"I recently returned from Burkina Faso and witnessed the gravity of the humanitarian situation firsthand. Several towns, including Djibo, are under blockade, making it impossible for families to afford basic necessities. Despite the efforts made by different actors to bring supplies into the city, Djibo, which was once a well-known market in the region, is now nearly a ghost town. When you learn about the city's situation, you're told that over 200,000 internally displaced persons have sought refuge there, yet the food market is nearly empty. Over 70% of the shops are closed. There are barely any goats or sheep in sight. The food security of the population is unbearable and requires immediate action from all actors who have the capacity to make a difference for these people in dire need of food access.
"I met a mother who introduced me to her 19-month-old little boy, Leonardine. This child is a true miracle. He was born in Djibo in January 2022, weighing only 900 grams. With the increase in food insecurity and severe malnutrition, underweight births are becoming more common. His chances of survival were extremely low, and yet today, he is here with us thanks to frontline medical in Djibo who were able to use incubators that the IRC managed to bring into the city.
"The humanitarian community must reaffirm its commitment to engage with all actors in order to gain access to people trapped in besieged cities across Burkina Faso. It is crucial that the HRP is fully funded, including specifically nutrition services and commodities, to address drivers of food insecurity and to prevent the number of people going hungry to double before the year ends.
“In addition to a drastic increase in resources needed to respond to this crisis, the specific elements of that response need to be evidence-based and focused on the particular challenges at hand. For example, simplifications to the treatment of acute malnutrition are needed to ensure that limited resources are maximised to save more lives. The IRC’s Combined Protocol has demonstrated that more than 90% of those treated with it recover, even though it uses about 40% less treatment product than the standard protocol. This sort of impactful, scalable and cost-effective approach will be crucial for delivering a meaningful response to the escalating crisis in Burkina Faso.”
The International Rescue Committee IRC began work in Burkina Faso in 2019. The intervention started in Djibo, which hosts a large internally displaced population and is currently under siege by non-state armed groups, severely affecting humanitarian access. IRC provides safe water and sanitation services. IRC has also established a primary healthcare programme, which includes reproductive health care and community-based services for childhood illness, malnutrition, and disease prevention.