Women and Girls in Burkina Faso
Burkina Faso is a landlocked, Sub-Saharan country in West Africa. Of the 20 million people residing there, 50.3 percent are female. Women and girls in Burkina Faso are likely to suffer from sexual or violent assault, experience forced marriage, be sold as property, die from unsafe pregnancy or abortion and/or undergo genitalia mutilation.

More than 85 percent of the population in the area supports the idea that these practices should discontinue. The government reformation of the constitution in 2016 claiming to strengthen women’s and children’s rights reflects this support. Unfortunately, women living in West Africa are still in immediate need of medical aid in order to live safe and healthy lives.

The organization Lighting the Path launched a new Women’s Aid Fund (WAF) to accomplish just that by helping women and girls in the fight for life. To gain further insight into how WAF is changing the lives of those living in Burkina Faso, The Borgen Project interviewed Dawn Malcolm, founder of Lighting the Path.

Life for Females in Burkina Faso

While the country’s government has put a policy into motion that promotes gender equality, the women and girls in Burkina Faso still face many unfair and cruel practices.

According to a Country Gender Profile by Japan International Cooperation Agency, when it comes to education, it is “socially ingrained that girls should be doing household chores rather than going to school.” In 2018, Burkina Faso saw a mere 32 percent of the female population enroll in schools.

Additionally, it is likely that women and girls in Burkina Faso will experience sexual assault from other students or teachers. In 1998, a Medical Research Council Survey found that 37.7 percent of girls in South Africa said that a school teacher or principal had raped them.

Additionally, there is an issue of forced marriage, including underaged young women. Families force more than half of all girls under the legal age of 17 into unregistered marriage.

Gender-based violence (GBV) is also extremely prevalent in Burkina Faso. Specifically, female genital mutilation (FGM) is a common practice for the nation. Despite the fact that Burkina Faso banned this practice in 1996 and the majority of the population is aware of the harmful effects, 76 percent of females between the ages of 15 and 49 have undergone mutilation.

Finally, women’s economic status in the country is far below that of men’s status. This occurs for three main reasons. Firstly, many in the country do not value women’s right to own property. Secondly, the right of succession does not apply to women. Thirdly, women cannot seem to buy or inherit the land. All of these economic issues make women reliable for men for a sustainable way of life, continuing the suppressive cycle.

Behind Lighting the Path

Dawn Malcolm founded Lighting the Path with the main goal of ending extreme poverty. The organization works with outreach programs and finds people in poverty who suffer from a lack of food, health care or education. The organization offers support through teaching business and entrepreneurship skills, which Malcolm believes is the best way to help. “Women and the people in poverty have to be empowered to help with the process of writing them out of poverty,” she says. “It can’t just be hand-outs all the time.” One example of this enterprise production model was teaching the women and girls in Burkina Faso to make soap out of the shea butter readily available to them in the village.

LTP is currently working on five fundraising projects: The Girls for Girls Project, The School for Girls Project, The Giving Hope Project, Empowerment Work in Burkina Faso and Microfinancing projects. For sustainable development, building the school for girls is the main focus of LTP’s future, as of now.

The Women’s Aid Fund

The Women’s Aid Fund is a new project that Lighting the Path has had success with. It formed while Malcolm was in Burkina Faso teaching women to make the shea butter soap. While working there, she recognized that women and girls had untreated medical issues. “Women there are husbands’ property, so they’re not always taken care of. Plus, if there’s any money, [the women] would take care of their children before they would get themselves cared for,” Malcolm told The Borgen Project. She typically saw injuries that occurred from FGM or injuries that occurred from fistulas that had not received treatment. Fistulas develop when the body is not ready for birth; in this case, the underaged girls who entered marriage unwillingly commonly developed fistulas.

Most of the things Malcolm witnessed were widespread, occurring on a daily basis and would likely require more than one group’s intervention for eradication. During her time, Malcolm encountered one woman with an injury she knew she could help with if she had the right amount of resources.

A woman named Elizabeth had lost her arm in a domestic dispute with her husband. “Life is very, very difficult [there]. It’s a lot of work, and it’s very hard there already, so when a woman has an injury, or an illness or wound that compromises her further, it just compounds the difficulty of life,” she said. Malcolm saw that by simply purchasing a prosthetic arm, she and Lighting the Path could change Elizabeth’s life for the better.

The WAF formulated with the goal of buying Elizabeth the prosthetic arm. The arm cost about $1,700 but Lighting the Path decided that was not enough. Not stopping at the prosthetic, WAF is continuing to help other women and girls in Burkina Faso who have disabilities or need medical attention. Malcolm says that even small things—a cut on the finger, for example—can sometimes become septic and lead to death if it does not receive treatment. There will always be ways we can help the women and girls in Burkina Faso. Malcolm said, “There’s always going to be women in need of some support to get some treatment or some care that they can’t otherwise afford.”

 Sadly, things like sexual assault, FGM, illegal marriage and unsafe abortion still happen to women and girls in Burkina Faso. Change may come in the future, but it is likely that everyday women and girls in the country are experiencing harm while waiting for that change to arrive. Thankfully, organizations like Lighting the Path and funds like the WAF are improving the way these women heal.

Marlee Septak
Photo: Flickr

Ending Violence in Burkina Faso
Burkina Faso is a small African nation that lies between the more well-known countries Ghana and Mali. Like many other underprivileged nations, Burkina Faso experiences excessive rates of violence. Fortunately, humanitarian organizations noticed and began efforts to calm the violence. Keep reading to find out who and what organizations are ending violence in Burkina Faso.

The Statistics

In Burkina Faso, the United Nations’ report reveals the harsh reality that citizens live through. The homicide rate is 9.8 per 100,000 people. The homicide rate for men is 14.1 out of 100,000 people, while the homicide rate for females is 5.2. In addition, with a population of 20,321,378, the total number of homicides for 2019 was 1,991 deaths. For comparison, the homicide rate in the United States in 2018 was 5.0 people per 100,000 people, which is nearly 50 percent less Burkina Faso’s homicide rate. These astronomical homicide rates are why ending violence in Burkina Faso is a crucial issue.

How Violence Affects the Nation

The extreme homicide rate in Burkina Faso is detrimental to society, but in many more ways than just an increased death toll. Between January 26 and February 15, 2020, approximately 150,000 people fled their villages in the Sahel region. In addition, United Nations News reported that nearly 4,000 people flee their communities every day. The violence in Burkina Faso forces communities from their villages. Additionally, the violence forced over 2,000 schools to close due to threats toward education personnel, military usurping school facilities and assaults directed at the schools themselves in February 2019. As a result, about 133,333 children had their education interrupted, and 3,050 teachers became jobless.

Who is Ending Violence in Burkina Faso?

Fortunately, the violence in Burkina Faso is not going unnoticed. Many different humanitarian organizations are working toward ending violence in Burkina Faso. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is a branch of the United Nations that focuses on the well-being of refugees, people forcibly removed from their communities and stateless people. The UNHCR is working to provide safe zones for fleeing individuals. Its distinct focus is relocating the elderly, children and single women.


The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) works to decrease the impact of the closure of schools on the youth’s education. Additionally, UNICEF works toward this goal by implementing innovative learning methods. For example, radio learning is a way that UNICEF works toward ending violence in Burkina Faso. Radio learning is an inventive way to provide education to the many children who have to flee their homes because of violence. The radio lessons follow a basis of literacy and arithmetic.
 Moreover, UNICEF works with education and government officials to bring a resolution to the table. The organization works on the ground to assist teachers in resolving the threat of violence to their schools. Also, UNICEF provides psychological support to students and teachers who have become emotionally scarred from the harsh reality they witness daily.


– Cleveland Lewis
Photo: Flickr

Higher Education in Burkina Faso
Burkina Faso is a presidential republic in Western Africa. After the country’s independence from France in 1960, Burkina Faso went through a period of political turmoil between 1970 and 2015. Between 2016 and 2018, Burkina Faso also suffered three terrorist attacks in its capital. The growing insecurity, due to more terrorist threats in the country’s northern and eastern regions, resulted in multiple tragedies. In 2019, more than 1,800 people died, nearly 500,000 people experienced displacement and more than 2,000 schools closed. This article will examine the state of higher education in Burkina Faso.

The Importance of Higher Education

This displacement of school closures resulted in a low literacy rate in Burkina Faso, where only 41.2 percent of the population above the age of 15 is literate. However, these conditions have improved in recent years. While the participation rate in education from pre-primary to higher education is still low compared to most of the world, recent UNESCO statistics show an upward trend in people’s participation in education.

One cannot underestimate the importance of higher education in a developing country such as Burkina Faso. While it is important to raise the literacy rate, many economic experts suggest that the governments of developing nations should invest in higher education. The World Bank, as early as 2000, recognized this importance. The report suggested that human capital, which is the knowledge, skill and resourcefulness of a country’s people, is increasingly becoming more important for a country’s future economic development. The World Bank’s 2020 education plan further reflects this.

There are three major public universities, three private universities and one technical university in Burkina Faso. The biggest public university, Universite de Ouagadougou (University of Ouagadougou), has 30,000 to 34,999 enrolled students. The University of Ouagadougou provides curriculums in humanities, arts, business and engineering. Meanwhile, the Universite Polytechnique de Bobo-Dioulasso (Polytechnic University of Bobo-Dioulasso) focuses its curriculum on science and technology. These universities bear the responsibility of improving and continuing higher education in Burkina Faso.

Challenges of Improving Education for Students

Higher education in Burkina Faso must overcome numerous challenges, but the state of education in the country has steadily improved over the past decade. There has also been a rise in the number of people who are eligible to participate in higher education. The gross enrolment ratio in higher education in the country rose from 3.58 percent in 2010 to 6.5 percent in 2018. However, there are concerns over the lack of infrastructure and teacher staffing levels in the nation’s higher education institutions.

While the Burkina Faso government’s expenditures in education have been steadily increasing since 2010, reports suggest that most of the investment went into building new universities instead of creating new fields of study. Gender disparity is another issue that higher education in Burkina Faso must overcome. According to the World Bank, the gender disparity in Burkina Faso’s education widens with each rung of the education ladder. UNESCO data shows that while female enrollment in tertiary education is steadily increasing, it is still significantly below male participation in higher education.

Improving Higher Education

There are efforts, both domestic and international, to improve higher education in Burkina Faso. The World Bank, for its part, invested in a $70 million project to improve the higher education in Burkina Faso.

In 2020, the Virtual University of Burkina Faso (UV-BF) is one of the projects with the aim of improving higher education in Burkina Faso. Professor Jean Marie Dipama, who set up UV-BF, said in an interview that she hopes that UV-BF will make higher education more available to Burkina Faso’s people. The Burkina Faso government also recently launched its new Education Sector Plan for 2017 through 2030, which aims to improve the quality and access to education across all academic levels

Higher education in Burkina Faso is striving to improve. As the world economy gets more complex, the need for better higher education in the country seems paramount. While the steadily rising literacy and education rate is a good sign, this is giving rise to concerns over Burkina Faso’s ability to provide quality higher education to all who desire it. However, the Burkina Faso government’s continuous effort to improve the country’s overall education aims to also improve the nation’s higher education. With the help of foreign investors and communities, such as the World Bank, many hope that Burkina Faso’s higher education will continue its improvement in the coming years.

YongJin Yi
Photo: Flickr

According to data accumulated by the United Nations, life expectancy in Burkina Faso has increased by 32 years since 1950. Contemporary estimates place Burkina Faso’s current life expectancy at 62 years, while in 1950 life expectancy was measured to be 30 years. Despite these gains, contemporary figures remain low compared to the developed world. These 10 facts about life expectancy in Burkina Faso showcase the massive strides made in public health and standard of living while also describing challenges yet to be overcome.

10 facts About Life Expectancy in Burkina Faso

  1. Malaria: The Center for Disease Control (CDC) lists malaria as the number one cause of death in Burkina Faso. Severe Malaria Observatory reports that malaria is responsible for 61.5 percent of all hospitalizations and 30.5 percent of deaths occurring each year due to malaria. Similarly, for children under 5, malaria is the leading cause of hospitalization with 63.2 percent of all admittances. Malaria accounts for nearly half of all deaths for children under 5.
  2. HIV: Tremendous strides in reducing the prevalence of HIV are further improving life expectancy in Burkina Faso. The population affected by HIV has been reduced from 2.3 percent down to 0.8 percent between 2001 and 2018. Representing an overall decrease of 65 percent, Burkina Faso reduced HIV prevalence more than any country in that period. Further, in 2007 HIV was still ranked as the fifth most likely cause of death in Burkina Faso. By 2017, HIV had plummeted to the 16th most likely cause of death. Working with major international partners including the University of Oslo, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Terre des Hommes and the Global Fund allowed Burkina Faso to develop and implement methods to prevent mother to child transmission of HIV. 
  3. Sanitation Improvements: According to the Burkinabè government’s Ministry of Water and Sanitation between 2018 and 2019, Burkina Faso successfully constructing 26,039 family latrines and 966 public latrines. In the same year, the Burkinabè government assisted in the construction of 553 kilometers of additional water supply infrastructure and 188 new standpipes in urban areas. This construction increased national access to drinking water from 74 percent to 75.4 percent within a single year. Similarly, the national sanitation rate rose from 22.6 percent to 23.6 percent. Inadequate access to proper sanitation and clean water are the primary contributors to diarrheal disease, which is one of the leading causes of death in Burkina Faso. Improvements in sanitation have reduced deaths attributed to diarrheal diseases and increased overall life expectancy in Burkina Faso.
  4. Infant and Maternal Mortality: Infant mortality has decreased from 91 deaths per 1,000 births in the year 2000 to 49 deaths in 2017. Similarly, the maternal mortality rate dropped significantly between 2000 and 2017 from 516 deaths per 100,000 live births to 320 deaths per 100,000 live births. These advancements are due to greater access to hospitals, particularly in urban areas, as well as innovations in public health such as the Maternal Death Surveillance and Response system. The initiative trains health care professionals across the country to properly identify, notify and investigate instances of maternal death. Since its inception, the program has been nationalized leading to maternal and neonatal death audits so that health facilities regularly address the shortcomings of the health system to avoid future deaths.
  5. Child Mortality: A recent study conducted by the World Bank found that one in eight children born in Burkina Faso will die before the age of 5. The risk of under-5 mortality is 6 percent higher for children born to mothers younger than the age of 18. The average age of a woman in Burkina Faso at the time of childbirth is 19 years old and the birth rate for women aged 15-19 is 122 births per 1,000. To curb adolescent pregnancy the Burkina Faso Council of Community Development Organizations launched a campaign to reduce sexually transmitted disease, unwanted or adolescent pregnancies and unsafe abortions in Burkina Faso in 2019.
  6. High Fertility Rates: Even as life expectancy in Burkina Faso has improved, high fertility rates influence public health as women, on average, give birth to 4.5 children. Though contemporary efforts to address high fertility rates have been promising, the population demographic distribution is largely 14 years old and younger. With these demographics dominating the population Burkina Faso’s rate of growth will continue to increase as this younger generation reaches adulthood.
  7. High Growth Rates: Despite life expectancy increasing, Burkina Faso still displays a young age structure — typified by a declining mortality rate coupled with particularly high fertility rates. Burkina Faso’s population is growing at a projected rate of 2.66 percent, making the nation the 18th fastest growing population in the world. This precipitous growth places a greater strain on the nation’s arable land as well as economic well being, causing challenges in maintaining the growth of life expectancy in Burkina Faso’s future.
  8. Security Crisis: Since 2016, Burkina Faso has been targeted by several militant Islamist extremist groups primarily based in the country’s Northern region. Attacks committed by these groups claimed 1,800 lives in 2019, according to the United Nations. In 2019, there was a 10-fold increase in the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs); the total people displaced is estimated at around half a million. This large number of IDPs and people who have been fleeing violence to neighboring Mali have compounded economic and ecological problems in Burkina Faso. Although, the government is looking to continue to propel growth in life expectancy in Burkina Faso.
  9. Humanitarian Aid: Around 948,000 people need security and 1.5 million people are currently dependent upon humanitarian aid to cover basic medical needs. Basic health care is crucial in effectively reducing poverty and improving life expectancy. Humanitarian aid is focusing on impacting 1.8 million people by providing $312 million in funding.
  10. Continued Growth Projections: Regardless of concerns,  recently presented data from the 2019 Revision of World Population Prospects, the United Nations projects continued growth in the area of Burkinabè life expectancy. Life expectancy in Burkina Faso is projected to increase to 70 years by 2050 according to the U.N. study.

These 10 facts about life expectancy in Burkina Faso depict a nation that has made great achievements and is ready to face its contemporary problems with assistance from international partners. 

– Perry Stone Budd
Photo: Flickr

Economic and Scientific Development in Burkina FasoBurkina Faso is a country plagued by violence and poverty. There is little opportunity for work in Burkina Faso outside of agriculture. The country also has recently become the victim of Jihadist attacks. Jihadists exploit the country’s impoverished citizens to gain recruits. Violence and climate change contribute to the country’s poverty. Despite this, the government aims to prioritize economic and scientific development in Burkina Faso. The country adopted a National Policy for Scientific and Technical Research in 2012. The goal of the project was to improve research and development. Additionally, the project hopes to improve the country’s agricultural output to improve food security.

Burkina Faso’s Economic and Scientific Development

The country’s objective is to promote an effective and accessible health system. This implementation yielded some positive results in economic and scientific development in Burkina Faso. Fortunately, there is a growing number of doctoral candidates in medicine and other similar fields. However, most of the researchers working in Burkina Faso are from European nations, such as France.

The country passed the National Policy for Food and Nutrition Security in 2014 and the National Program for the Rural Sector in 2011.  The country also passed the Science, Technology and Innovation Act in 2013. The act established three mechanisms for financial innovation: the National Fund for Education and Research, the National Fund for Research and Innovation Development and the Forum for Scientific Research and Technological Innovation.

To attract researchers and developers in an effort to improve economic and scientific development in Burkina Faso, the country held a major event in 2017. Burkina Faso’s National Center for Scientific and Technological Research organized the event. The event hosted investors, innovators, researchers and other players in the technology field to suggest and showcase their ideas on how to improve technological research. As a result, Burkina Faso has received funding from organizations, including the World Bank.

Development Challenges

Much of the funding Burkina Faso and other Sub-Saharan African countries receive comes with expectations. As with many African countries, there is often a condition requiring the country to bring a portion of its own money to be eligible for grants for research projects. Many funding agencies expect contributions of 20 to 50 percent of the project’s cost, according to the Executive Secretary of the Uganda National Council for Science and Technology. Donors often ask for this contribution as a method to ensure the country’s commitment to a project.

Burkina Faso cannot obtain the necessary funding due to these restrictions. As a result, there are a number of problems facing Burkina Faso’s research and development programs. The country has a small pool of researchers, a lack of research funding and outdated research facilities.

Success Stories

Despite the lack of funding, there have been small success stories of economic and scientific development in Burkina Faso. Aminata Sinka, the founder of Linea’s Ideas, embroiders gadgets, baby gift sets, sheets, t-shirts and blouses for businesses or individuals. She takes inspiration from designs she sees on the internet and tries to ensure her designs are unique. As of now, she is the only reference for digital embroidery in Burkina Faso.

Another success story is Sotria-B, an industrial nut processing company in the city of Banfora. Sotria-B nut processing is uplifting the lives of women in Burkina Faso. More than 300 people have employment, 90 percent of whom are women. Most of these women come from impoverished backgrounds. Since 2006, the company has processed 3,000 pounds of cashew nuts. The company sells its nuts in both Europe and America and obtained investors through the European Union. The owner’s goal to improve the lives of women is slowly coming to fruition as the company flourishes.

It is probable that more success stories will come out of Burkina Faso. A higher chance for success requires additional funding and understanding concerning Burkina Faso’s inability to bring forth its own funding. With more grants and other funds, Burkina Faso can implement more economic and scientific developments.

Robert Forsyth
Photo: Flickr

Helen Keller International
Helen Keller International (HIK) is an organization that is dedicated to helping the world’s poor by combating poverty, blindness, poor health and malnutrition for all people. It predominately helps those who are less fortunate and do not have accessibility to the resources that help maintain an adequate living.

The Main Focus

HIK primarily focuses on preventing blindness in people by providing them with cataract surgery, vision correction and distributing treatments and cures for tropical diseases. This is how it plans on combating poverty in developing countries. It currently has more than 120 programs in about 20 countries all over the world.

It works with various partners to implement strategies that will combat poverty and strengthen these programs. Some of its partners include organizations such as the West African Health Organization, Food and Agriculture Organization, UNICEF, World Health Organization and the World Food Program.

Helen Keller International’s Accomplishments

According to reports from Impact Information in 2018, HIK provided 15,000 free precision glasses to disadvantaged youth and performed 40,000 cataract surgeries.

In 2014, USAID funded a five-year Morbidity Management and Disability Prevention Project (MMDP) to strengthen illness management and prevent disabilities in African countries. HIK has led the MMDP project in Burkina Faso, Cameroon and Ethiopia since July 2014. As a result, thousands of people have benefited from HIK’s help and dedication to the project.

The project combats painful diseases such as trichiasis which can cause scarring to the cornea because it causes the eyelash to grow backward. The project also treats hydrocele, which causes the male scrotum to swell causing extreme pain. This is most common in male newborns.

HIK’s work with the MMDP project in the countries above has helped 2.1 million people get screenings for trichiasis and 76,000 people received trichiasis surgery. Additionally, HIK was able to train 280 trichiasis surgeons. This organization also provided hydrocele surgery to over 2,000 men and trained 200 hydrocele surgeons. HIK has changed the lives of many people at risk.

Global Impact

Helen Keller International is combating poverty by improving the lives of the world’s poor at a global level as well. The MMDP project improves data availability and use by sharing knowledge worldwide. The project also assisted in developing tools and resources for communities to use internationally in trachoma and LF programs around the world.

HIK believes that neglected tropical diseases are direct consequences of poverty. To combat this poverty it has turned its focus to protect health. HIK aids in the fight against five diseases including trachoma, river blindness, intestinal worms, snail fever and lymphatic filariasis. All of these diseases cause extreme pain and can even lead to death.

To combat these diseases, HIK has helped deliver thousands of trachoma surgeries to poor communities and will continue to do so in hopes of eliminating trachoma by 2020. The organization has helped develop a platform that is effective in the treatment of river blindness across Africa. HIK also helps developing countries distribute deworming medication to children in at-risk communities.

Helen Keller International is combating poverty all over the world through efforts to protect health and advert the causes of blindness and more in poor countries. Through its efforts, it has aided many in poverty and that number should only grow.

– Jessica Jones
Photo: Flickr

BARKA Foundation

Burkina Faso is a small, land-locked country located in western Africa. Due to recurring droughts and the lack of efficient infrastructure, access to clean water remains an issue in Burkina Faso, especially during the dry winter months when two of the country’s three rivers dry up. In addition to water scarcity, many areas still do not have the sanitation facilities necessary to ensure drinking water is clean and safe. An organization called the BARKA Foundation is working to change that.

Barka is an African word meaning gratitude, blessing and reciprocity. These three words embody the mission of the BARKA Foundation, an American non-profit that strives to bring clean water to all parts of Burkina Faso. In 2015, 93.3 percent of the rural population and 80.3 percent of the total population did not have improved sanitation facility access. Nearly half the country still lives without clean water. Dirty water can spread diarrheal diseases and other infections to the public. Below are descriptions of the BARKA Foundation’s current clean water projects, and the positive effects these projects have had on communities in Burkina Faso.

WASH

Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Education (WASH) is a long-term initiative that not only supplies rural villages with clean water but also educates the villagers on important sanitation and water purification practices. The goal here is sustainability. By giving village members lifelong sanitation skills, BARKA can be confident that their positive impact will continue after they have left. WASH objectives include digging wells, building latrines and educating members of the community.

Part of what makes the BARKA Foundation special is its culturally sensitive and community-based approach to clean water. Before any project starts, BARKA makes sure it is in accordance with the Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples’ Principle of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC). This principle ensures that all beneficiary communities agree to the non-profit’s presence and initiatives, have the right to negotiate the terms of the agreement and can withdraw consent at any time.

BARKA also makes a point of developing sustained personal relationships with each village, so the two groups can develop trust and collaborate effectively. The foundation establishes water and sanitation committees in each town, which are run by the villagers and must be made up of equal parts men and women. These principles are central to WASH’s desire to create a sustainable system of clean water and sanitation. So far, more than 25,000 rural villages have been improved by WASH. The organization has drilled 6 wells and built 14 bathrooms in 5 primary schools in rural areas.

Social Art

BARKA recognizes the cultural importance of song, dance and performance in Burkina Faso. Therefore, to engage village members, the BARKA Foundation uses theater to relay information to the public. These performances involve a portable stage along with light and sound equipment. The plays often contain themes such as female empowerment and sustainable agriculture. After a performance, the audience and the actors on stage have a lively debate where questions may be asked or points challenged. The goal is to create an immersive and interactive learning experience in which everyone can participate.

The adult literacy rate in Burkina Faso is only 34.6 percent. For this reason, engaging and participatory education is extremely important in rural areas. BARKA wants to get the necessary information out there in an effective way that does not exclude illiterate members of society. BARKA has involved 10,023 people in villages and public performances to date, benefiting more than 16,000 people. The average audience size per performance is 432 people.

Walk for Water

A great way for people in their home countries to get involved with the BARKA Foundation is to do a Walk for Water. When there are no wells close by, villagers must travel to a water source to fill up heavy jugs of water and lug them home. The chore typically falls on the shoulders of women and girls in the village, so they usually have to attend to small children while making the journey. Often, those going to get water are barefoot or equipped with poor footwear. This practice is physically tiring and time-consuming and takes time away from girls’ education.

Walks for Water are an imitation of this daily burden. Classrooms, schools and clubs raise money and awareness by carrying water jugs and walking for a set distance (usually 6 kilometers). The fundraiser engages the entire community and is a great way to get everyone involved in an important cause.

Ceramic Filters

Ceramic water filters are a cheap, environmentally sustainable and generally effective way to purify household water. The CDC found that people who used ceramic filters were 60 to 70 percent less likely to contract diarrheal diseases from their drinking water. While these filters are useful for removing most protozoa and bacterial pathogens, they are typically not as effective at removing viruses. For this reason, filters should not be considered a long-term solution but rather an important step.

The BARKA Foundation uses a “cross-subsidization” model to distribute filters to impoverished areas. Essentially, BARKA sells the filters to NGOs and the Burkinabe middle class that can afford them. They then use those profits to distribute ceramic filters to poor areas, often visiting rural villages with little to no sanitation facility access. These filters represent a simple and effective way to ensure every household has at least some method of water purification.

The Future of Clean Water in Burkina Faso

Although the federal government recognized the importance of clean water distribution with the Water Act in 2001, Burkina Faso’s local governments largely do not have the money or resources to maintain filtered water and sanitation practices. The BARKA Foundation seeks to fill these gaps, and its efforts have no doubt resulted in success on the ground.

While it can be difficult to quantify exactly how much improvement BARKA has brought about, they are headed in the right direction. In 2005, a year before BARKA was founded, the life expectancy in Burkina Faso was 53.3 years. Today, the country’s life expectancy is about 61 years. BARKA’s various projects will continue to fight poverty by bringing clean, safe and sustainable water to Burkina Faso.

Morgan Johnson
Photo: Flickr

Malaria in Burkina Faso
Starting every July, citizens of Burkina Faso prepare themselves. While some prepare for a harvest or the school year to begin, many prepare for mosquitoes. Peak mosquito and peak malaria season begin in July and runs through September.

Malaria is a serious burden on the Burkinabé people. In 2015, the disease, which is treatable and preventable, was responsible for 61.5 percent of hospitalizations and 30.5 percent of deaths in Burkina Faso. That same year, malaria accounted for roughly 70 percent of deaths in children under the age of 5. In 2018, there were 11,915,816 presumed and confirmed cases of malaria. While reports say that 4,144 people died of malaria in 2018, experts estimate the true total to be above 30,000.

However, change is on the horizon. Recently, the nonprofit research group Target Malaria began testing its newest weapon against malaria: mosquitoes.

Using Mosquitoes to fight Malaria in Burkina Faso

In the small village of Bana, 10,000 genetically modified, sterile male mosquitoes, coated in fluorescent dust, were released into the wild. Although mosquitoes have been genetically modified in Brazil and the Cayman Islands, this was the first time such mosquitoes have been released in Africa, and out in the world.

This release was a long time in the making. Target Malaria, led by Abdoulaye Diabaté, began research in 2012. However, in the seven years it took to reach this point, far more was needed than just research. Diabaté and his research team also sought to bring in the community. Such an experiment was sure the bring skepticism and criticism from local tribes, so Target Malaria sought the approval of tribe leaders before letting the mosquitoes into the wild. In May 2018, all of the tribe leaders signed off on the project, giving their approval.

The overall goal of Target Malaria’s research is to develop a special gene in mosquitoes that will squash the malaria gene, effectively eradicating malaria in Burkina Faso and wherever else the mosquitoes reach.

This first release is a stress test. Over 99 percent of the mosquitoes released are sterile males, which cannot bite and pass on their genes. Scientists wanted to test how these mosquitoes fare in the wild, track their behaviors, flight patterns and flight dispersal, as well as see how the ecosystem reacts to these new mosquitoes. The mosquitoes should die within a matter of months.

The next step for Target Malaria is research and analysis. According to Diabaté, the team plans to spend the next year working with information from this stress test. Then, they will continue to develop the malaria-squashing gene, as well as continue to build community relations. The remaining scientific research component should be completed in two to three years. However, because of developing community relationships and education processes, the group expects the mosquitoes equipped with the gene to be released in six or seven years.

Because of the nature of this project, Target Malaria has not been without criticism. Environmentalists warn of the dangers of tampering with an entire species of mosquito and the possibility of unforeseen consequences. According to Diabaté, the group understands this but also highlight the tremendous possibilities if the project is successful. There are 3,500 different species of mosquito in Africa and 850 in West Africa alone. Target Malaria is attacking one species of mosquito and possibly saving thousands, if not millions of lives from malaria in Burkina Faso and the rest of Africa. For Target Malaria, the risk is worth the reward.

What is Target Malaria?

Target Malaria is a nonprofit research group that aims to develop and share technology for malaria control in Africa. The team’s vision is to create a world free of malaria. The team consists of scientists, stakeholder engagement teams, risk assessment teams and regulatory experts from Africa, Europe and North America. They operate from Burkina Faso, Mali and Uganda.

Diabaté himself is a native of Burkina Faso and is familiar with malaria after suffering through it himself. His wife, children and sibling have also suffered bouts with malaria as well. Malaria in Burkina Faso is a far too common issue for his family and millions of others.

The research Target Malaria is doing has the possibility of eradicating malaria. If successful, the genetically modified mosquitoes will replace the standard bed nets and medical treatments. These mosquitoes have the potential to change the lives of millions throughout Africa.

– Andrew Edwards
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Human Trafficking in Burkina Faso
Since gaining its independence from France in 1960, Burkina Faso has trodden down a rather tumultuous path. Through political instability in the 1960s and 70s to frequent terrorist attacks in the 2010s (with over 100 confirmed extremist attacks in the first quarter of 2019), Burkina Faso has been plagued by constant insecurity.

Currently, Burkina Faso has a 77 percent unemployment rate, despite the country’s slight growth in gross domestic product (GDP) over the last three years. These high unemployment rates, combined with the tumultuous economic and political fields, fuse to create poor living and working conditions, paving the way for human trafficking, which seemingly envelops every facet of life. From agriculture to mining, human trafficking in Burkina Faso is an issue that must be addressed.

Human Trafficking in Burkina Faso

The U.S. State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking Persons has established a four-tier ranking to describe a country’s status regarding the presence of and efforts to eradicate human trafficking. These ranks range from tier one, which details countries that comply with 2008’s Anti-Trafficking Laws, to tier two, tier two (watchlist), and tier three, which denotes countries that both do not comply with these laws and have made very little effort in meeting the standards set forth by these laws.

Burkina Faso is currently designated as a tier two nation. The U.S. Department of State emphasizes that the country, as a whole, has not met the standards set forth in 2008, though progress has been made in attempts to combat the issue of human trafficking through awareness campaigns and the steady increase of investigations in trafficking cases.

Burkina Faso is a current source, throughway and destination for human and sex trafficking. According to the Department of State’s 2019 report on human trafficking, the Burkinabe government has identified at least 851 victims of trafficking, and 2,844 potential victims of trafficking (including an estimated 1,350 homeless children, according to Burkina Faso’s Ministry of Women). However, these numbers are still estimates from incomplete data from somewhere between 30 and 45 of Burkina Faso’s 45 provinces.

Despite the lack of concrete data, the Burkinabe government has been able to identify more at-risk populations during 2018 than in previous years due to a stark rise in awareness and attentiveness. Currently, however, Burkina Faso’s government still lacks the resources to totally dismantle the seemingly institutionalized trade.

Current Governmental Measures

Burkina Faso’s government has made efforts to support those that it has identified as potential trafficking victims, as well as those who are subjected to harsh working conditions in general, by creating shelters to provide food, clothing and security. However, these shelters are rarely found outside of large metropolitan areas and are only able to house a certain number of victims at once. Furthermore, while this support is essential, it does not solve human trafficking in Burkina Faso.

Burkina Faso lacks the tools necessary to fully abolish human trafficking. While funding and staffing-power are certainly absent, lack of information and data appear to be the largest obstacles standing in the way of progress.

Missing police reports and insufficient data blur the complete picture of human trafficking in Burkina Faso. It has been reported that 61 traffickers were convicted in 2018, though it is unclear how significant these prosecutions have been in combatting the industry as a whole. Furthermore, the sentences doled out to these traffickers did not meet the standards of 2008’s anti-trafficking law, another contributing factor to Burkina Faso’s tier two status.

To prevent future human trafficking, the Ministry of Women and the Burkinabe government have assembled a committee designed to oversee the reduction and eventual eradication of human trafficking in Burkina Faso, though, this committee did not convene during the U.S. Department of State’s reporting period, and failed to produce any full-fledged intervention due to insufficient resources.

Furthermore, additional measures have been made to ensure that children are kept out of poor labor conditions. Even without sufficient funding, the Burkinabe government was able to free 20,000 child workers from mines between the years of 2015 and 2019.

Current Non-Governmental Measures

Collaborative work and interventions between Burkina Faso’s government and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have yielded more promising results than those spearheaded solely by the government. While these coalitions still lack the resources for a more chronic, wide-spread response to human trafficking, they have disseminated information about human trafficking, hopefully preventing certain populations from getting enveloped in the trade. This increase in awareness of human trafficking among the general Burkinabe population helps facilitate change. The more citizens are mindful of human trafficking, the higher chance that more might be done about the issue.

NGOs have also played an important role in advocating for greater police training to combat and limit stigma around certain occupations, such as prostitution. UNAids recently partnered with REVS PLUS, a French NGO, to assist in the training of the police forces in Burkina Faso to help provide adequate medical care to sex workers.

Moving Forward

Burkina Faso has made strides in combatting and preventing human trafficking through heightened awareness. That said, there is still work to be done in the area. The creation of subcommittees to form a more “boots-on-the-ground” approach has gained enough ground to educate a significant portion of the population on the issue at hand (over 500,000, with about four percent of this number being children).

Advocacy and awareness are only the first steps to improving conditions for those at-risk for trafficking, those currently being trafficked and for all Burkinabe people in general. Action steps, such as the continuation of prosecuting and convicting human traffickers, appear to be trending upward, though improvement can be seen in this area. It is also important to address the other issues plaguing Burkina Faso; continuing economic growth and maintaining political stability will go a long way in abolishing human trafficking in Burkina Faso.

– Colin Petersdorf
Photo: Flickr

treating hiv in west and central africa
As of 2017, 1.8 million adolescents around the world are living with HIV. This accounts for five percent of total HIV cases. Approximately 1.5 million, or 85 percent, of these adolescents, live in Sub-Saharan Africa. Of this, 61 percent live in Eastern and Southern Africa and 24 percent live in West and Central Africa. The region with the second-highest HIV rates for adolescents in the world is West and Central Africa. Ending HIV in West and Central Africa requires strong national and international efforts to protect and treat children and adults.

One of the largest problems in the region is a lack of HIV testing. According to Marie-Pierre Poirier, UNICEF Regional Director for West and Central Africa, a majority of children living with HIV are not receiving the proper care because they have never been tested and do not know they have the disease.

One way to resolve this is to ensure testing is being done at primary health facilities in communities, with a family-centered approach. It is equally important to increase testing and treatment for pregnant women. Only 47 percent of pregnant women with HIV in West and Central Africa were able to use antiretroviral medicines, which prevent transmission to the unborn child.

Gender Matters

Among adolescents, there are often gender disparities in HIV infections. In many parts of the world—including South Asia, East Asia, the Pacific, Latin America, the Caribbean, the Middle East and North Africa—more boys than girls between the ages of 15 and 19 were newly infected in 2017. Whereas in West, Central, Eastern and Southern Africa significantly more girls than boys were infected. In West and Central Africa, 66 percent of the new were girls, while only 34 percent were boys.

Women and girls in this region are particularly at risk of HIV because of cultural, social and economic inequalities. They are less likely to attend school. Girls that are uneducated are twice as likely to become infected with HIV than girls who have attended school. Additionally, uneducated girls are at a greater risk for partner violence, increasing the risk for HIV.

Access to healthcare is also a significant issue. Women’s inability to see a healthcare provider prevents life-saving testing and treatments. Approximately 50 percent of girls and young women in Sub-Saharan Africa are not allowed to make personal health decisions.

International Efforts

Ending HIV has long been a focus of international humanitarian organizations. Recently, with the increased focus on preventing HIV infections among adolescents, UNAIDS created ALL IN! This collaboration improves knowledge about HIV, as well as how it can be prevented and treated. The goal is to reduce new HIV infections by 75 percent by 2020, aiming for ending the epidemic by 2030.

UNAIDS reports that HIV has already decreased in some of the most severely affected countries due to the adoption of safer sexual practices by adolescents. Often, school is crucial to providing the necessary sex education.

Efforts to reduce HIV in West and Central Africa is not only being done by international organizations such as UNAIDS; governments and their partners are taking initiatives to better prevent and treat HIV in youth and adults.

In Côte d’Ivoire, the government made the decision to stop charging people for HIV testing and treatment services. Fees have long been a barrier for those who live in poverty. Currently, only 46 percent of those in Côte d’Ivoire living with HIV were accessing treatment. Hopefully, this initiative will begin to increase this number, helping nearly half a million people.

Treatments and Strategies

Those who are at a high risk of HIV in West and Central Africa but have not yet contracted the disease can take the pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) regimen. A pilot study is taking place in Burkina Faso, focusing on providing this preventative treatment to the most vulnerable. This includes homosexual men, who often avoid medical treatment due to the stigma surrounding their sexuality.

Once the study, which began at the end of 2018, is completed the plan is to expand PrEP across the nation and, eventually, the entire region. Benjamin Sana, a participant in this pilot study, is thankful for the treatment and believes that PrEP has the potential to save lives.

In response to a new survey, Muhammadu Buhari, Nigeria’s president led the development of a Revised National HIV and AIDS Strategic Framework for 2019 to 2021. Since 2010, Nigeria has tripled the number of people who receive HIV treatment and adopted an effected test and treat policy in 2016.

The new strategy aims to ensure services are being delivered to the people who need them the most, even in remote areas with less health care access. One of their primary goals is to ensure that no more children are born with HIV in Nigeria, according to the president.

These efforts in Côte d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso and Nigeria, as well as other countries in the region, will hopefully have a significant impact on the future of HIV in West and Central Africa, saving thousands of lives.

– Sara Olk
Photo: Flickr