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Addressing Hunger in Burkina Faso is a Community Affair

Hunger in Burkina Faso
In Burkina Faso, over 29% of children under five years old suffer from stunting, which is a form of malnutrition and a direct result of hunger. This occurs due to a lack of nutritious foods in the womb and throughout their first few years of life. These children are more susceptible to disease, poor school performance and difficulties as they grow older.

Statistics on Hunger in Burkina Faso

  • Two-thirds of children suffering from undernutrition do not receive medical attention.
  • About 40% of infant deaths in Burkina Faso are linked to undernutrition.
  • Stunted children with a height deficiency, relevant to age, completes an average of 0.3 years less of education, than children who are not stunted.
  • Burkina Faso’s workforce has decreased by 13.6%. Infant mortality rates are associated with undernutrition.
  • On a national scale, only 11.4% of children under two-years-old receive the recommended number of daily meals.
  • Roughly 499,000 children, under five years old, suffer from acute malnutrition.
  • Even though food is accessible in local markets, chronic poverty and disasters reduce food availability. Over 1.5 million children are at risk of food insecurity, while 350,000 need emergency assistance.

Catholic Relief Services (CRS) is a prominent organization helping the country increase farming and food production techniques. Their program, called FASO, supplies a women’s group with locally fortified flour, specifically for infants, and helps them establish a distribution and marketing network. These local sources of nutrition improve the availability of food and expand the local economy.

In order to end malnutrition and hunger in Burkina Faso, increasing the supply and affordability isn’t sufficient. Burkina Faso’s communities will need to be taught proper health, nutrition and hygiene. CRS has helped establish care group leaders in villages to aid pregnant women and new mothers. These women encourage conventional breastfeeding, sustainable nutrition for infants and accessible health care for pregnant mothers and children roughly two-years-old, or younger.

To hold each other accountable for health improvement, community members tend to a scoreboard, which tracks the village’s progression of health achievements. The physical scoreboard captures the public’s health efforts and visually invokes competition for more successful results.

“Having the scoreboard reminds us there is still a problem to address. We’re still facing challenges. The scoreboard is our motivator and reminder. There are still women who don’t practice exclusive breastfeeding during the first six months. We need to work. Even if we can’t get rid of all the red [on the scoreboard], we can reduce it,” Tiga Ouedraogo, a health promoter, told CRS.

On top of improved access to safe drinking water and community sanitation, construction of facilities is important in reducing diarrhea and infections. Open defecation is common in many villages, where latrines, or toilets, are not present. People lack privacy, but they are also susceptible to snake bites, or other animals attacking them while using the bathroom. Rainy weather spreads this human waste, which heightens the susceptibility to disease.

Each year, hunger in Burkina Faso costs roughly $409 billion, which equates to 7.7% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). These costs riddle healthcare and education, which affects worker productivity. In 2014, roughly a quarter of Burkina Faso was deemed undernourished. However, the construction of at least 600 toilets has impacted 36 villages, and more than 16,500 people in 55 villages have potable water now. Progress is slowly being made with organizations, such as CRS, improving the health and hunger of Burkina Faso.

Rachel Williams

Photo: Flickr