In Burkina Faso there is a humanitarian emergency, INTERSOS opens new mission

Burkina Faso, “Land of the upright people”, as it chose to be called after the independence. A secular and multi-confessional country that, for a long, time has been immune or just marginally touched by the conflict in the Sahel area, and has a long tradition of coexistence between ethnic groups and religious groups within it. A welcoming country, that hosts a large international community, including many Italian citizens as well as many organisations involved in development cooperation projects.

This description, still basically valid a year ago, is now dramatically challenged by the increase in violence and human rights violations that turned Burkina Faso into a country facing a humanitarian emergency. In the Global Humanitarian Overview, OCHA’s document setting out humanitarian needs for 2020, Burkina Faso marks a 58% increase in demand for funds, an estimated 2,2 million people in need of aid and 500,000 displaced persons, five times more than the previous year.

Contamination. The first word that comes to mind is this – explains Federica Biondi, Emergency Coordinator of INTERSOS, engaged in recent months in launching the new mission of our organisation in Burkina Faso – Contamination by external conflicts that started supporting the influx of refugees from neighbouring countries, first of all Mali, and then spread within the borders of Burkina Faso, exacerbating latent conflicts of power and leadership. An escalation that led to a rapid deterioration in the humanitarian situation and prompted us to intervene”.

In collaboration with UNHCR, INTERSOS has launched a protection monitoring project in the Northern region, which in the first half of 2020 will be extended to the Boucle de Mouhoun and East regions. The population we are supporting is composed of: Malian refugees living outside official camps, internally displaced persons, host communities, former Burkinabè migrants in Mali at risk of statelessness.

There are many factors affecting the growing instability in Burkina Faso: the emergence of new armed groups, the harshness of the on-going clashes, the ongoing conflict in the surrounding areas of Mali, the growing activism of ISIS in the Sahel area, the influence of the conflict with the armed group Boko Haram between Nigeria and bordering Niger.

Basic services – together with people forced to leave their homes or, at the opposite, unable to leave dangerous situations – are paying the highest price. The educational system, targeted as a symbol of “occidental culture” has been under attack: 1455 schools closed in 2019, preventing more than 200,000 children from continuing their studies. An entire generation is at risk of illiteracy. Reduced access to health services have affected 600.000 people, with 57 closed health facilities and 66 working at minimum capacity.

Martina Martelloni
Martina Martelloni