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Unprecedented number of people forced to flee home in Burkina Faso; IRC launches response

The west African nation is experiencing a period of escalating violence, leading to the country’s greatest displacement crisis in recorded history.

  • Since July violence involving militant groups has displaced almost 150,000 people in Burkina Faso -- and numbers continue to rise as violence continues;
  • The IRC conducted an assessment and spoke to over 320 people to understand the needs of displaced people in Djibo, Sahel region;
  • People report that they most need food, shelter and water, with only 7% of people able to eat vegetables in the span of a week;
  • Deaths of children under five have reportedly increased since the start of the crisis;
  • The IRC has launched an immediate emergency response to help people access clean water.

Violence is once again on the rise in Burkina Faso, where almost 150,000 people have been forced to flee their homes in the past year - over half of them in 2019.

Increasing violence by armed groups has created severe insecurity across the Sahel and this has spilled over into Burkina Faso. This crisis has left people reliant on others in the community to support people in need, with many unable to support their family’s basic needs. Last month, the International Rescue Committee conducted an emergency assessment to understand the needs of those in the Sahel region where displaced people  are currently concentrated, and inform an upcoming response.

Bob Kitchen, IRC’s Vice President for Emergencies said: “Violence blights the lives of millions of people across the Sahel region. During the past year we have seen a significant escalation in conflict in Burkina Faso leading to the country’s first major displacement crisis in living memory. Almost 150,000 people have had their lives turned upside down by violence and now we are seeing another concerning spike in attacks, with around a thousand people being displaced each day. It’s clear that this crisis is not gaining the international attention nor funding it needs and deserves.

“IRC teams have been speaking to people forced to flee their homes in the town of Djibo. People overwhelmingly reported that they most needed food, with people unable to afford more than average of two meals per day - and are surviving off rice and other cereals. Almost no one is eating meat, fish, eggs or vegetables. This is highly concerning, particularly for children who need the vitamins and minerals to develop properly. People told our team that the number of children under five dying has increased since the crisis began.”

Shelter and water were the second and third greatest needs reported by the community, with almost three quarters of people living in rented accommodation. Of those that were not living in rented accommodation, 17% either sleep outside or have no formal shelter, and 11% sleep in tents. Many people reported that accommodation was overcrowded, lacked basic services like water and offered no privacy.

Three-quarters of people reported that water is not consistently available to displaced people, with many people having to travel long distances or wait for a significant period of time to collect it. On average it takes people more than three and a half hours to collect water.

Overall, the price of goods was reported to be on the rise, with some costs doubling in a single month. Although this does not indicate that overall inflation is at this rate, it is highly concerning due to the lack of cash and work available for those that are displaced. If this trend continues then many will be forced to cut back on what they buy, as they are required to pay for both water and shelter.

84% of people interviewed reported that a member of their family had experienced a fever, cough, or diarrhea in the past two weeks. Whilst many people reported that there was a health center in their areas, most only provide basic, curative health services, with teams finding a lack of clinical management of rape services in particular. Due to security concerns a full protection assessment could not be conducted.

Bob Kitchen concludes: “The OCHA response plan is currently just over 21% funded - leaving an almost $80 million funding gap. Each day that this crisis goes overlooked and underfunded men, women and children go without enough food. The world must wake up to this crisis.”

In coming weeks, the International Rescue Committee will begin programming in Burkina Faso, supporting displaced people and the communities supporting them with services to help them meet their urgent needs including supporting people to access clean water and thereby improving their health.

Notes to editor:

Read the full assessment here.

The assessment included: (1) 7 stakeholder interviews in Ouagadougou focused largely on understanding the existing humanitarian response for IDPs across the northern regions (who is responding where and what gaps exist), (2) 312 household surveys in Djibo town, using a convenience sample due to the limited time available for the assessment because of security constraints, (3) 6 key informant interviews with market vendors and, (4) 3 key informant interviews with health workers in a government hospital, an urban health center (supported by ICRC) and a primary health care center.

This assessment used a non-representative sample. The nature of a convenience sample is that it is not considered to be representative of the entire population of interest, in this case, displaced Burkinabe surveyed in Djibo town. However, because of this non-representation, the sample size is increased to help to control for any bias that is otherwise present. Security concerns prevented the target sample size from being reached.

About the IRC

The International Rescue Committee responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises, helping to restore health, safety, education, economic wellbeing, and power to people devastated by conflict and disaster. Founded in 1933 at the call of Albert Einstein, the IRC is at work in over 40 countries and 28 offices across the U.S. helping people to survive, reclaim control of their future, and strengthen their communities. Learn more at www.rescue.org and follow the IRC on Twitter & Facebook.