Children in Burkina FasoBurkina Faso, a small, landlocked country in Western Africa, is one of the least developed countries in the world. About 45% of the over 20 million who live in the nation face poverty. Nearly 2.2 million people live in dire need of aid, with children half of those in need. This crisis has only worsened due to the ongoing conflicts in the Sahel region of Western Africa, which have displaced millions of Burkinabé people and put them at a higher risk of poverty.

Children in Burkina Faso, who make up 45% of the population, face more challenges than nearly any other group of children on Earth — many of them have low access to nutrition, education, and healthcare, and are often subjected to child labor and marriage.

Hunger and Malnutrition

While Burkina Faso has always struggled with hunger, with 25% of children stunted from malnutrition, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the problem. The number of people in need of food aid has tripled to 3.2 million, and many of those suffering from malnutrition are children. Doctors and nurses in Burkina Faso are reporting extremely high numbers of malnourished children entering their healthcare facilities each day. Prior to the pandemic, Burkinabé children experienced hunger as a result of displacement from the conflicts in Africa’s Sahel region.

Education

While attending primary school is compulsory for children in Burkina Faso between the ages of seven and fourteen, this rule is not enforced, and about 36% of children do not attend. Additionally, 67% of girls over the age of fifteen do not know how to read or write. The high levels of poverty in the country lead to low levels of education. Furthermore, the conflicts in the area have only made it harder for children to access and attend their schools. Attackers have raided the schools, injuring teachers and putting Burkinabé children at risk.

Healthcare

Burkina Faso has the tenth-highest under-five mortality rate in the world, with 87.5 out of every 1,000 children in 2019 dying before their fifth birthday. About 54 infants die for every 1,000 live births . That majority of these deaths are from communicable diseases and malaria, which the nation has struggled to prevent and control. While the number of healthcare workers in the area has increased in the past few decades, particularly between 2006 and 2010, it has not been quite enough to combat the need of the ever-growing population, and many children in the area are left without healthcare access.

Child Marriage

Over half of Burkinabé children are married before their eighteenth birthday, and the country has the fifth highest rate of child marriage in the world. One in ten girls under nineteen have already given birth to at least one child. Girls with limited access to education have a higher chance of marrying as children. The same holds true for girls who live in impoverished households. Both of these trends remain common in Burkina Faso. The apparent social value ascribed to girls in the region is considered lower than their male counterparts. As a result, young girls who enter child marriages often do not have a choice in their future husbands.

Child Labor

42% of children in Burkina Faso are engaged in child labor rather than attending school. Though the government adopted a “National Strategy to End the Worst Forms of Child Labor” and raised the legal minimum working age to sixteen, these high rates of child labor have not decreased significantly over the past few years. These children work as cotton harvesters, miners of gold and granite, domestic workers, and in some rare cases, sex workers. Child labor puts children at risk of serious injury, and, in some extreme cases, even death.

While children in Burkina Faso face all of these challenges, work is being done to help them live safe, healthy and educated lives. Save the Children, UNICEF, Action Against Hunger and Girls Not Brides are just a handful of the organizations working in Burkina Faso to ensure that these children receive the care they need and deserve. Childhood in this region is, in fact, difficult. Yet, all is not lost as these groups work to improve the lives of children across Burkina Faso.

Daryn Lenahan
Photo: Flickr

Poverty Eradication in Burkina Faso
The culturally vibrant Western African country of Burkina Faso sits landlocked, with a population of around 20 million people. According to the human capital index, the nation ranks 144 out of 157 countries firmly placing it in the lowest category of human development. Furthermore, 40.1% of the population is living below the poverty line. Despite facing many developmental challenges, a remarkable agricultural renaissance has been quietly taking place leading to a re-greening effect and encouraging innovations in poverty eradication in Burkina Faso.

Innovative Farming Methods in Burkina Faso

Over the past three decades, farmers in Burkina Faso have introduced new and innovative methods to traditional farming techniques which have achieved stunning results. The practices have reclaimed 200,000-300,000 hectares of land and enable the annual production of “an additional 80,000 tons of food,” helping 500,000 people become food secure. One should not understate this as agriculture sits at the heart of the nation’s economy accounting for 35% of GDP and employing 85% of the population.

For decades, farmers faced challenges with poor soil, lack of water, population growth and soil degradation. However, poverty eradication in Burkina Faso occurred by individual farmers and NGOs, such as the AVAPAS project, ingeniously mixing traditional farming methods with new techniques.

Yacouba Sawadogo’s Influence

As an early proponent and pioneer of these innovative farming practices known locally as zaï, people dubbed the humble farmer named Yacouba Sawadogo, “the man who stopped the desert.” Over the past three decades, Yacouba and a network of farmers alike transformed massive amounts of arid, non-arable land into thriving productive farmland suitable for productive agriculture.

Zaï is the name for a farming technique in which farmers dig planting for the purpose of placing crops and plants. Historically, farmers did this a small scale and faced productivity issues due to a lack of rainwater. Innovations such as the application of organic fertilizers and the introduction of “mechanized” zaï, in which farmers use small machines or draft animals to reduce labor, helped these productivity issues. Additionally, farmers constructed Contour bunds, or semi-permeable barriers, slowing down water run-off and increasing absorption and soil moisture retention. Lastly, the application and construction of a certain type of ditch called Demi-lunes helped collect and provide precious rainwater and retain run-off.

The results of Yacouba’s agricultural revolution have not gone unnoticed. An Oxfam International Library case study concluded that what farmers have achieved in Burkina Faso is “the greatest agroecological success story in Africa, and perhaps anywhere.”

The Results

Through these innovative farming efforts, farmland productivity and yield increased. While yields remained stagnant from the 1960s through the 1980s, the widespread use of agroecological farming techniques improved Burkina Faso’s agricultural productivity and led to higher yields since the 1990s.

Average yields in sorghum and millet in the Yatenga province of Burkina Faso, that utilized these farming techniques, increased their average yield from 694 kg/hectare and 473 kg/hectare in 1984–1988 to 733 kg/hectare and 688 kg/hectare, respectively from 1995–2001 after applying improved farming techniques. Furthermore, the hunger gap reduced by as much as 50% since the 1980s by reducing food shortages and increasing food security.

The use of improved farming techniques has also shown the ability to increase household incomes by an average of 18-24%, and investments in mechanized zaï can yield a return of 150,000 CFA/hectare per year.

Looking Forward

Many additional innovations in poverty eradication in Burkina Faso are necessary outside of the agricultural sector and Burkina Faso, unfortunately, remains one of the most poverty-stricken nations in the world. However, one can learn a lot from the innovations in poverty eradication in Burkina Faso, especially as the effects of the environment will continue to put stress on countries who face similar agricultural challenges. Several studies from the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment to the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development, point to the need for an increase in sustainable agriculture to reduce land degradation, hunger and poverty.

– Andrew Eckas
Photo: Flickr

SDG 16 in Burkina Faso
After semi-authoritarian rule for 27 years and the end of the Compaoré regime by a popular insurrection, the people of Burkina Faso had the chance to open the door to a political transition and the creation of a competitive democracy. As a result, Burkina Faso held peaceful elections in November 2015. Since then, the new government and the local communities have been working on addressing the challenges of more inclusive development, transitional justice and a new governance model of security. Here are some updates on SDG 16 in Burkina Faso.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

In that same year, all the United Nations’ Member States adopted the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which emerged as an urgent call for all countries to achieve peace and prosperity for humanity and the planet. The SDGs tackle issues as diverse and relevant for today’s world as to end hunger, eliminate poverty and achieve gender equality. Despite this, the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs), the antecessors to the SDGs, demonstrated that to achieve progress in the realms of poverty and development, there must be a greater focus on its root causes. Now, violence, insecurity and conflict play a key role in constraining development.

The SDG 16: “Peace, justice and strong institutions” aims to promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels. In many ways, the SDG 16 is one of the most ambitious goals, since it faces many challenges for its implementation, especially in countries with weak institutions and armed conflicts.

Burkina Faso and the SDGs

Since the two events, both the democratization of Burkina Faso and the creation of the Sustainable Development Goals, occurred at almost at the same time, the country quickly decided to include the SDGs in its political agenda. First, the country implemented a five-year National Plan for Economic and Social Development (PNDES) that was almost 90% SDG compliant. Moreover, numerous reforms are underway to promote human rights, improve the efficiency of the justice system and other public institutions, address corruption and guarantee legal inclusion, all of these to achieve the SDG 16 in Burkina Faso.

Human Rights

In 2016, Burkina Faso established the National Human Rights Commission, as the United Nations’ Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights (UNOHCHR) recommended and in compliance with the Paris Principles. The members of this commission are administrative and financially independent by law.

Later, in the 2018 Universal Periodic Review, which involved the participation of the government together with the civil society, development partners and U.N. entities (such as UNDP, UNICEF and UNOHCHR), the international community commended the country’s efforts to improve political, social, economic, civic and cultural rights. After the adoption of this report, the Human Rights Council set 184 recommendations that the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights of Burkina Faso quickly implemented.

That same year, the country’s parliament abolished the death penalty and increased the protection of victims and witnesses by law.

Finally, freedom of the press and plurality of media has played a crucial role in making the country’s leaders accountable. The country ranked 38 in the 2020 Press Freedom Index with a value of 24.53 and, although it is lower than the previous year, it is still considered as a positive trend to achieve this indicator of the SDG 16 in Burkina Faso.

Justice and Legal Inclusion

The advocacy efforts of a women-led civil society organization, Association des Femmes Juristes, sprung into a law that ensures vulnerable populations’ access to justice. The establishment of a legal aid fund to support women in need of judicial assistance and cover their legal costs soon followed the adoption of this law. As a result, between 2016 and 2018, the fund has helped close to 600 people.

Additionally, great progress has occurred in modernizing civil registration, mainly ensuring registration of children under 5, displaced populations, migrants and refugees. This prevented the classification of many people at risk as stateless. Later in 2018, Burkina Faso ratified the Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness and adopted a National Action Plan against Statelessness, in which the government collaborated with religious institutions and the U.N. to organize hearings in several regions and allocate citizenship to approximately 40,000 people.

Civic Participation

The government of Burkina Faso created platforms for citizen engagement through annual, two-way dialogues with the civil society to openly discuss numerous policy issues. Some citizen platforms such as Dialogue Citoyen and Presimetre encourage the government’s accountability and the civilian’s interest in public affairs. Since its launch, many political leaders have made appearances on media platforms to respond to civil queries and many surveys have occurred.

The Future is Bright

Overall, there have been significant improvements for sustainable development in Burkina Faso. Specifically, the country has a spillover score (which results from the actions by countries to achieve the SDGs under four dimensions: environment, economy & finance, society and security) of 99.3 out of 100, showcasing that there is Burkina Faso is undergoing a great number of positive actions to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

Unfortunately, recent security threats are negatively affecting the country’s political transition and development, such as terrorism and organized crime. Despite this, the new context of insecurity has raised the redesign of security measures at two levels: first, at a central state-level, and second, at the local state-level with non-state security initiatives (LSIs). These new challenges have highlighted the importance of social cohesion and the promotion of peaceful societies to achieve the SDG 16 in Burkina Faso.

Finally, the developments on the SDG 16 in Burkina Faso showcase how new democracies can address their structural and social issues in short periods when the actors involved are willing to do so. Today, these efforts combined with international assistance are imperative to support the country’s sustainable development and prevent these achievements from disappearing due to new threats.

– Helen Souki
Photo: Flickr

Schooling During COVID-19As COVID-19 started spreading, schools around the world shut down. For countries with already poor schooling systems and low literacy rates, the pandemic created even more challenges. The world’s most illiterate countries are South Sudan with a 73% illiteracy rate, Afghanistan with a 71.9% illiteracy rate, Burkina Faso with a 71.3% illiteracy rate and Niger with a 71.3% illiteracy rate. Schooling during COVID-19 has only increased the struggles these countries face as they try to promote literacy.

Literacy is an important aspect of reducing world poverty, as countries with the lowest levels of literacy are also the poorest. This is because poverty often forces children to drop out of school in order to support their families. Since those children did not get an education, they will not be able to get a high-paying job, which requires literacy. Thus, a lack of education keeps people in poverty. If countries with low literacy rates make schooling harder to access due to COVID-19, the illiteracy rate will increase, and the cycle will continue. Below are the ways that the four least literate countries are continuing schooling during COVID-19.

South Sudan

After almost a decade of fighting due to the South Sudanese Civil War, literacy rates are already low in South Sudan, as the war inhibited access to education. The government-imposed curfew in response to COVID-19 forced children to stay home. This especially challenges girls, whose families expect them to pick up housework at home due to gender norms. The government provided school over the radio or television as a virtual alternative to schooling during COVID-19. However, impoverished children who lack access to electricity, television and radio have no other option. This lack of access to education for poor Sudanese children will further decrease literacy rates. As a result, children may be at risk of early marriage, pregnancy or entrance into the workforce.

Afghanistan

In Afghanistan, there was already a war going on when the COVID-19 pandemic struck, creating a barrier to education. In 2019 alone, 200,000 students stopped attending school. COVID-19 has the potential to make this problem worse. Importantly, Afghanistan’s schooling crisis affects girls the most; by upper school, only 36% of students are girls. Further, 35% of Afghan girls are forced into child marriages, and not being in school makes them three times as likely to be married under 18. If they do not finish school, there is a high chance they will never become literate.

COVID-19 may exacerbate girls’ lack of access to school. When schools shut down, the schooling system in Afghanistan moved online in order to continue schooling during COVID-19. But only 14% of Afghans have access to the internet due to poverty. Since many parents are not literate, they cannot help their children with school. School shutdowns may also decrease future school attendance, especially for girls. As such, COVID-19 will perpetuate illiteracy in Afghanistan, with many children missing out on school due to poverty.

Burkina Faso

In Burkina Faso, school shutdowns have put children at risk of violence. Jihadist violence, tied to Islamic militants, has increased in the country. Violence forces children out of school, with many receiving threats, thus decreasing the literacy rate. Though school was a safe space for children, COVID-19 is making this situation worse.

As an alternative for schooling during COVID-19, Burkina Faso has broadcasted lessons on the radio and TV. However, many students do not have access to these technologies. Even if they do, staying at home does not protect them from violence, which could prevent them from going to school. In Burkina Faso, many children also travel to big cities to go to school. But without their parents being able to help them economically, many are now forced to get jobs, entering the workforce early. This lowers the number of children in school as well as the country’s literacy rate.

Niger

In Niger, 1.2 million children lost access to schooling during COVID-19, lacking even a television or radio alternative. Schools have since reopened, but children still feel the impacts of this shutdown. Before COVID-19, at the start of 2020, more than two million children were not in school due to financial insecurity, early marriage or entrance into the workforce. COVID-19 forced many children to give up schooling forever, as they had to marry or begin work and fell behind in school. As a result, this lowered the country’s literacy rate.

Improving Literacy Rates During COVID-19

While COVID-19 did prevent many children from accessing the education they need, many organizations are working to help them meet this challenge. One of these organizations is Save the Children. It is dedicated to creating reliable distance learning for displaced students, support for students and a safe environment for students to learn.

COVID-19 has left many students without access to education, jeopardizing the future for many. In the countries with the highest illiteracy rates, a lower percentage of children with access to education means a lower percentage of the population that will be literate. Improving literacy rates is key reducing poverty, as it allows people to work in specialized jobs that require a higher education, which then leads to higher salaries. If literacy rates drop, poverty will only continue to increase. This makes the work of organizations like Save the Children crucial during the ongoing pandemic.

Seona Maskara
Photo: Flickr

Homelessness in Burkina Faso
Homelessness in Burkina Faso is a crisis in a long list of crises. Aside from the ongoing challenges that confront the landlocked West African nation, housing shortages have escalated for over 18 million inhabitants. The woes of the former French colony are plentiful, but Burkina Faso’s U.N. advisor, Miriame Fofaso, sees hope in Burkina Faso’s future.

A Brief History

  • In 1960, Burkina Faso gained independence from France, which had held the nation as a protectorate since 1896.
  • Since the 1960s, the region has had a number of military coups and juntas laying the foundation for ongoing destabilization.
  • People knew Burkina Faso as Upper Volta until 1984 when the country decided to break with its colonial past.
  • Burkina Faso has inclement weather (floods, droughts, etc.) which continue to put stress on housing, food, clean water and several mainstays of infrastructure and economic health.
  • In April 2020, flooding wiped out internally displaced persons (IDPs: Burkinabé residents) camps and washed away homes, businesses, agricultural harvests and livestock.
  • Militant groups have carried out countless terrorist attacks throughout the countryside. Groups like the Al Qaeda-inspired Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimin (JNIM) and the
    Islamic State of the Greater Sahara (Sunni Islamists) have increased by several hundred since 2015.
  • Refugees from surrounding war-torn countries (Mali, the Central African Republic and more) add to the homeless crisis.
  • Homelessness in Burkina Faso is a struggle, as the weather and raids have displaced a staggering number (700,000) of Burkinabé citizens, of whom 40% live off $1.25 per day. Due to these issues, current data on homelessness is sparse. Some sources claim a 100% increase in homelessness (1 million), as compared to early in 2020 (450,000).

The needs of the Burkinabé are growing, according to Jerry-Jonas Mbasha, the health cluster coordinator for the World Health Organization (WHO) in Burkina Faso. The landlocked nation had 1,929 COVID-19 cases as of September 27, 2020.

Within the homeless population, there is also susceptibility to disease due to a lack of basic needs like clean water, health care, basic hygiene and sanitation. This includes diseases that were already present before the pandemic, like cholera, dengue fever and yellow fever to name a few.

COVID-19 Relief

In an unfortunate, but not unforeseen turn of events, COVID-19 has ravaged the countryside in almost apocalyptic fashion. The International Organization for Migration (IOM), a United Nations entity that appeals to public and private partners, raised $37.8 million to aid 480,000 people in June 2020. The organization has provided health kits, community and IDP camps awareness campaigns regarding the virus, providing temporary housing and more.

The European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations, an arm of the European Union, has also added to the relief funding, earmarking €22.5 million to aiding the country’s humanitarian aid needs. But the economic impact has already disrupted economic viability for families, whether it be lockdown measures or children’s school cancellations.

A New Hope

Homelessness in Burkina Faso seems hopeless and endless, with the coronavirus adding to the stresses of a county already on the brink. That is unless Mariame Fofana is involved. Fofana serves as the Burkinabé Ambassador Deputy Permanent Representative at the U.N. Social Development Commission. The commission is devoted to developing housing relief in the impoverished nations of the U.N.

Under her tenure, she has successfully lobbied for the funding of 35,000 new government housing units from the U.N. In a session from earlier this year, she drew attention to the opportunity for solutions, saying that “2020 provides a chance for the international community and the Commission to take stock of its work in social development [….] underlining the need to prioritize poor and vulnerable people.”

Fofana has advocated for anti-poverty investments for several years. Fofana serves on the Group of 77, an international organization of developing nations within the U.N. that advocates for the needs of developing countries.

At a 2019 International Day for the Eradication of Poverty meeting, through her French-accented English, she conveyed sympathy for her people. Noting the terrorist attacks that had ravaged the Burkinabé countryside, she called on younger generations to fend off discouragement and depression. ‘Young people? Who better than you, through your innocent eyes, can make us better aware of a need to build a world of solidarity, prosperity, and security? Where all children, without exception, will benefit from the full enjoyment of their right[s].”

Fofana represents a light for homelessness in Burkina Faso and an international hope for the Burkinabé population. Perhaps in the future, that hope will prevail.

Christopher Millard
Photo: Flickr

Burkina Faso's Healthcare System
Healthcare in Burkina Faso is not often in the eye of the media. War and violence have heavily affected the country and taken a toll on its healthcare system. Due to the escalation of violence and lack of financial means, roughly 1.5 million people have seen a significant reduction in their access to healthcare since 2019.

Funding and Outcomes

Violence is not the only problem that affects Burkina Faso’s healthcare system. Healthcare in Burkina Faso also suffers from a past and present lack of financial means to hire healthcare workers. The 5% government funding towards the healthcare system reflects this, which was $82 per person as of 2016. To compare, the United State’s government funding is at 17.7% and Canada’s is 11.6%.

The inability to hire experienced medical personnel has lead to less than one physician per 10,000 people, 3.57 nurses per 10,000 people and 2.39 midwives per 10,000.

This lack of experienced medical personnel strongly affects the outcomes of Burkina Faso’s healthcare system. For example, the minimum accessibility to midwives has led to a 21/1,000 stillbirth rate. Burkina Faso’s healthcare system also has a 49% chance of infant mortality.

Access to Resources

Though war and violence have put a strain on Burkina Faso’s healthcare system, there is also the issue of an inability for households to access resources. More than 45% of Burkina Faso’s population lives on less than $1.25 per day, and as a result, many are not able to afford and access proper food and water. The fact that 10.4% of children under 5 suffer from acute malnutrition illustrates this. Acute malnutrition is a form of undernutrition that can range in severities and cause growth stunting. This affects 30.2% of children in Burkina Faso.

Additionally, there are roughly 3 million people in Burkina Faso who cannot access improved water sources, which causes many digestive issues as well as dehydration. Another issue that Burkina Faso’s healthcare system has to bear is poor sanitation. Poor sanitation can lead to increased transmission of diseases. For example, only 22% of people have access to a toilet, which causes over 2,800 childhood deaths per year for children under 5.

Overall, the low individual income for the citizens of Burkina Faso acts as a barrier between them and healthcare. The fact that healthcare in Burkina Faso does not receive the necessary funding to hire experienced medical personnel, purchase quality products and afford and access technology negatively impacts the quality of care that each individual obtains.

Work to Improve Healthcare in Burkina Faso

Though Burkina Faso’s healthcare system has a long way to go, the United States and the rest of the world have been providing aid. For example, USAID is currently granting amazing services to Burkina Faso in the form of efforts to alleviate child hunger, provide malaria treatment and implement prevention programs targeting children under 5 and pregnant women. As one of the largest donors in the fight against malaria, the United States has contributed to a 62% reduction in mortality from it over the past five years.

In 2018, the World Bank approved an $80 million International Development Association grant and $20 million from the Global Financing Facility (GFF) in Support of Every Woman, Every Child. This money went toward supporting government efforts to increase accessibility and quality of health services in Burkina Faso.

Burkina Faso’s Efforts

Health minister Nicolas Meda has been working to achieve improvement to Burkina Faso’s healthcare system. In 2018, he welcomed the support of the Burkina Faso Reference Group. With the help of the group, the government identified four main goals it wished to achieve; expanding the current access to family planning, ensuring proper food and nutrition, eliminating infectious disease and revitalizing primary healthcare. Meda also wants to limit the household spending on healthcare to 20% instead of its 32% average which could increase households’ abilities to spend money on food, education, etc.

Global Context

Burkina Faso is a country that highlights the importance of foreign aid and healthcare protections. Without U.S foreign aid, the state of Burkina Faso’s healthcare system could be much worse than it is today. Through continued efforts, healthcare in Burkina Faso should continue to improve.

– Hope Arpa Chow
Photo: Pixabay

Displacement in Burkina Faso
Over the last couple of years, the crisis of displacement in Burkina Faso, a small country in western Africa, has become the most pressing refugee situation on Earth. Violence and lack of resources have forced many into displacement and extreme poverty.

Astronomical Growth of the Crisis

The Displacement in Burkina Faso has been called the current fastest growing crisis of its kind—for the last two years, attacks carried out by armed groups have ravaged villages, causing hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes. Since January of 2019, the number of people displaced in Burkina Faso, which has a total population of 18.6 million, has risen from 50,000 to around 920,000 as of July 2020. The United Nations has recognized that this is the fastest growing population of displaced people on the planet and that activists need to put their resources to work in Burkina Faso as quickly as possible.

Stable But Struggling Economy

Burkina Faso’s people do not benefit from its relatively stable macroeconomic status—Burkina Faso’s economy relies primarily upon agriculture, and though this sector has seen a decline, the rising service sector has allowed the country’s GDP growth to remain 6% in 2019. Yet, Burkina Faso’s people remain largely impoverished: over 40% of its population lives below the poverty line.

The displacement crisis, of course, has not helped the matter. It has caused over 2,000 schools to close, among other major losses in massive fields like medicine. 11,000 teachers felt the impact of this mass closing, and around 300,000 students found themselves without an education.

Lack of Governmental Regulation

Authorities do not know the extent of the situation—the armed groups terrorizing Burkina Faso, some linked with the Islamic State and al-Qaeda, have caused the administrative presence in the northern and eastern regions of the country to virtually disappear. Official regulation throughout the nation has deteriorated as a result. Police and other representatives of the state have fled these areas, which have unofficially fallen to terrorist control.

Moreover, the administration of Burkina Faso has resorted to execution without trial; 60 such executions occurred in 2019 alone. These circumstances make it difficult to say exactly how many lives have been affected by this crisis.

Humanitarian Organizations Strain to Help

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) and other humanitarian organizations need major funding to solve this issue: In response to the massive spread of displacement in Burkina Faso, IOM has begun a project to provide shelter and other resources to displaced people. Through their efforts, IOM delivered on its promise to more than 3,000 people in Burkina Faso. IOM also managed to provide psychological care for over 5,000 displaced people.

However, most of all, IOM needs outside funding to expand the scope of its aid. In June of 2020, IOM appealed for $37.8 million, hoping to extend aid to 460,000 displaced people in Burkina Faso and other neighboring countries.

Displacement and COVID-19

Burkina Faso needs aid for its COVID-19 response as well. The pandemic and displacement in Burkina Faso have created a dual-threat situation for the nation’s people. However, officials at IMO warn that both issues require the world’s attention. Neither of the relief efforts should suffer for the other’s sake—the rise of one issue inevitably worsens the other.

IMO has dedicated itself to solving both problems. They have provided medical supplies and raised awareness, helping over 3,282 displaced people become more aware of the pandemic situation.

Burkina Faso faces an issue that perhaps lies outside the bounds of what its government can overcome alone. Humanitarian agents around the globe need to immediately provide resources in order to alleviate the suffering in this once prosperous nation by helping it fight COVID-19 and its growing displacement crisis.

– Will Sikich
Photo: Flickr

Education in Burkina Faso
Frequent terrorist attacks since 2016 have impacted many sectors in Burkina Faso, especially education. The high cost of education prevents many in poverty from going to school. This is particularly true for girls, as parents are more likely to prioritize the education of their sons. Education remains a challenge for the West African country since Burkina Faso’s education spending relies heavily on aid. Furthermore, violence in the Sahel region displaced more than 765,000 people and caused more than 2,000 schools to close in March 2020. School closures continue to affect about 300,000 students and 11,000 teachers. Although recent violence has impacted education in Burkina Faso, organizations are stepping up to provide aid.

Education to Reduce Poverty

An educated society helps reduce poverty. Burkina Faso has a poverty rate of 40.1% and affordable education could benefit its people. Affordable education could also improve the country’s poor infrastructure and communication. Further benefits include the diversification of knowledge, allowing individuals to better change the world around them. All these benefits encouraged the OPEC to sign a loan of $20 million to Burkina Faso in support of its education development in 2019. A reported 18,500 on-campus University of Ouagadougou students will benefit from expanded facilities.

The loan also helps the government finance its Agricultural Value Chain Support Project, which focuses on poverty reduction and agricultural productivity. Director-General of the OPEC Fund Dr. Abdulhamid Alkhalifa said, “Ensuring inclusive and quality education for all – and promoting lifelong learning – is a fundamental ingredient to sustainable development. To see such a project come to life is inspiring and I believe this university will enable many people – young and old – to play a role in advancing the development of Burkina Faso, and more generally, in contributing toward a more equal global society.”

Improvements in Girls’ Education

Education for children continues to improve although the achievement gap between boys and girls still remains large. For females age 15 to 24, the literacy rate is only 33% in contrast to a 47% rate for boys in the same age range. In the Sahel region, girls’ education is particularly grim. Girls are two times more likely to drop out of primary school than their female counterparts nationally. About half of the girls in the Sahel region are married and give birth before the age of 19. This has created a high-drop out rate of around 30% during the final year of lower secondary school. If tests are not taken during this time, girls cannot move up to upper secondary school, both of which are barriers to furthering education for girls.

In response to these conditions, Education Cannot Wait provides emergency aid to countries without access to proper education. Education Cannot Wait, hosted by UNICEF, allocated $6 million in July 2019 to help children in the Sahel region. This came as a response to the widespread violence in the region that affected 2.3 million children. The organization provides emergency education assistance throughout the world, benefiting 187,000 children through its assistance. Its goals in the Sahel region for 2020 include constructing and rehabilitating classrooms for about 41,000 children who are out of school, distributing learning material for 94,000 children and mobilizing 83,000 community members to help support secure learning environments.

The 12-month plan also includes hygiene promotion, which includes menstrual hygiene management for more than 68,000 students. Sexual violence against women, child marriage and exploitation in the region are common, so a safe environment, such as a school, can help provide safety to student girls and female teachers in spite of the recent violence.

Moving Forward

Education remains of vital importance to a country’s wellbeing, both socially and economically. Burkina Faso continues to experience widespread violence, yet aid from outside the country is helping provide education to children and adults. However, more can be done to not only improve education but also increase economic development. Continued efforts are needed to reduce poverty and improve education in Burkina Faso.

– Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Flickr

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
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