20-year-old Manu Konu works with some of the most vulnerable children and their families in Burkina Faso’s Centre-North region which is home to hundreds of thousands of people displaced by conflict and drought. Manu, who originally joined Plan International as a trainee, is an Emergency Project Officer and helps implement programmes providing vital assistance to those most in need.
What does an average day look like for Manu? They often involved field trips explains the young woman: “We go to the displaced persons’ sites. We distribute school kits for children, menstrual management kits, hygiene kits… There are training and awareness raising sessions. For all this, you have to be on the spot. I follow up on our activities and it is important for me to communicate with beneficiaries because we don’t only work for them, we work with them”.
For Manu, working in a context of double crisis is “obviously difficult”. Security risks limit access to the IDP camps and COVID-19 has caused delays in implementing our projects. “But overall, we’re making it,” Manu tells us.
When asked if Manu sees herself as a hero, she smiles modestly and then answers in the affirmative. “I believe that all women who work in the field in humanitarian work, especially in emergencies, are heroines. Heroes are people who brave danger. We live and work in high-risk areas, and it is even more difficult for a woman. We do this because we are engaged and passionate. So yes, I am a hero!”
In addition to access difficulties and the fear of attacks, the COVID-19 crisis is also causing concern. Is Manu afraid of catching the disease? “Fear is there,” says Manu, “but prevention measures are being respected in all our activities”.
To date, no coronavirus cases have been officially recorded at any IDP sites in the region, nor among Plan International staff. Manu is confident that this crisis will soon be over. “But for the moment we have to live with it and for this reason we are implementing barrier measures”.
In Burkina Faso, nearly one million internally displaced people are now officially registered, in a country of around 20 million inhabitants. Faced with these challenges, Plan International has implemented 17 emergency projects during 2020, reaching 152,052 people.
Manu takes her inspiration from some of the children she works with, telling us about 15-year-old Alice who is a member of the Children’s Parliament in the region. “She gave a poignant speech describing the situation of girls like her. She explained how much they were affected by the crisis. She urged the government, humanitarian actors and the population to work for the return of peace. Her commitment and charisma touched me,” recalls Manu.