Oreoluwa Matemilola, Plan International Ireland Emergencies Intern
In Burkina Faso, recurrent natural hazards such as drought, widespread attacks by armed groups has resulted in many locations around the country being unliveable and exposing children to high risks of violence. In this small West African country, more people than ever before are facing severe humanitarian crisis which has crippled their self-sufficiency and made them totally reliant on humanitarian aid.
With limited resources and an economy heavily reliant on agriculture, almost 80% of the active population of Burkina Faso is employed in the agriculture sector. Although considered relatively safe compared to its more crisis-prone neighbours, in recent times, Burkina Faso has been experiencing increased violence from the presence and activities of Islamic armed groups. While the attacks are mostly concentrated near the borders with Mali and Niger, the effects of the crisis is felt all around the country.
A national state of emergency which was first declared in December 2018 in response to the growing crisis was extended in July until January 2020. Children already make up half of the 6.2 million people who are affected by the violence and the 1 million who are in dire need of assistance.
This gives a glimpse of the monumental catastrophe afflicting this once peaceful country and as the unprecedented humanitarian crisis continues to spread, over 490,000 people are currently displaced within the country and OCHA estimates that this number is likely to double by December 2020. This is in addition to the thousands seeking refuge in neighbouring countries as well as those from neighbouring countries seeking refuge in Burkina Faso.
The number of out-of-school children is estimated to be 330,000 due to the closure of over 2,024 schools, adding the risk that a generation could grow up without education. Children in crisis are at greater risks of being recruited as child soldiers, forced into child marriage and ultimately lose out on years of education. Providing a picture of the crisis and the dire situations the displaced people face daily, these startling growing numbers show the pressing need for immediate action.
Burkina Faso is also on the brink of a daunting food crisis. Attacks by armed groups are preventing people from working their farms as well as the widespread drought makes the possibility of a full-blown food crisis not hard to imagine.
Already reliant on humanitarian aid, the prospect of a food crisis raises significant concerns about the size and capacity of the available response and calls for a stronger and broader response to prevent continued decline.
Since the beginning of 2019 we have directly met the needs of 65,410 children and their families and indirectly benefitted an additional 150,000 children and their families in Burkina Faso. Since January we have:
With generous funding from Irish Aid we also provided 3,580 families with much needed survival items and hygiene kits including: blankets, emergency toolkits, hygiene and kitchen sets, lanterns and tarpaulins.
In spite of everything that has been done so far, the current situation calls for much more action and intervention. In many communities, schools are still being used to as temporary shelter, hindering the continuation of education. Added to that, armed groups have continued to directly target education and there remains a large number of children who still do not have their protection needs met.
With more support, we will be able to widen our response by providing;
By prioritising the most vulnerable families, Plan International will be able to continue to provide a level of comfort and protection by raising levels of hygiene, providing quality education and meeting the most immediate needs of the most vulnerable people.