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“Short window of opportunity to scale up response in Burkina Faso”: OCHA official

10 Feb 2020


Some of the displaced children attend this school in Ouahigouya. Credit: OCHA/Cynthia Cano

Since 2019, Burkina Faso has become one of the fastest-growing displacement crises in the world. The number of internally displaced people has increased tenfold within a year, from 60,000 in January 2019 to almost 600,000 in January 2020.

“The humanitarian response in Burkina Faso is at a crossroads, and humanitarian actors have a short window of opportunity to set up the structures and scale up the response that ensure an effective and timely response to the affected people,” said OCHA’s Director of Operations and Advocacy, Reena Ghelani. “Funding to ramp up is a main challenge and essential at this moment, while keeping up the ongoing scale-up and the work to address the root causes of the crisis.”

At least 2.2 million people in Burkina Faso will require life-saving humanitarian assistance and support to maintain basic living conditions in 2020, nearly double the 1.2 million people in need of assistance at the start of 2019. The Humanitarian Response Plan is asking for US$295 million to deliver assistance to 1.8 million people.

Ms. Ghelani was recently in Burkina Faso, and she travelled to Ouahigouya, in the northern part of the country, to meet some of the affected people. She met recently displaced families from the Sahel, Central North and North regions and host communities, front-line responders, national civil society organizations and local authorities.

Ms. Ghelani engages with a displaced mother in Ouahigouya. Credit: OCHA/Cynthia Cano  

In Ouahigouya, Ms. Ghelani visited an elementary school with more than 700 enrolled students, including children from displaced families. Some armed groups in Burkina Faso are deliberately targeting schools and teachers. Presently, more than 300,000 children do not have access to education in the country.

She also visited a food distribution site that reaches 8,000 people every month. Humanitarian partners at the site also screen children under age 5 for malnutrition.

During the time Ms. Ghelani was in Ouahigouya, displaced families from communities close to Thiou (Yatenga Province, North region) had arrived in the area and were generously received by the host community. The displaced people were registered by officials from the Ministry of Health and Social Action.

The displaced families, which were hosted in a public building that was no longer in use, noted that while they dream of going back to their places of origin, the security situation is very difficult.

Focus groups were held with representatives of displaced families from different communities in the North, Central North and Sahel regions, who asked for access to basic services and opportunities to generate income.

During her three-day visit, Ms. Ghelani also held meetings with humanitarian partners and key donors in the capital city of Ouagadougou.