BARKA FoundationBurkina 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

Conflict in Burkina Faso
In late January 2019, the eruption of conflict in the Centre-Nord and Sahel regions displaced thousands of people in rural Burkina Faso. The recent attacks are an extension of a disturbing trend involving the displacement of more than 115,000 people since 2015. According to the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, extremist attacks and conflict in Burkina Faso have quadrupled since 2017 as groups like al Qaeda, Ansar ul Islam and ISIS continue to gain support in the north.

Burkina Faso and the Situation

One of the more inspiring success stories in Western Africa, Burkina Faso was on track to implement sweeping political reforms this year, including presidential term limits. Since the country ousted former authoritarian ruler, Blaise Compaoré, in 2014, voter registration increased by 70 percent as scores of Burkinabè grew excited by the prospects of democracy. However, this March 2019, the government put the referendum on hold indefinitely while it struggles to bring stability back to Burkina Faso.

The conflict in Burkina Faso has come at a considerable human cost, with over 70,000 people displaced since January alone. The majority have fled within the country’s borders, finding refuge in the nearby regions of Foubé, Barsalogho and Déou. Though the camps provide families with relative safety, the hastily built, government-sponsored structures are far from adequate. The state is already overwhelmed by a recent influx of Malian refugees and resources are stretched thin as a result.

In refugee encampments like Foubé, a shortage of shelters has forced the roughly 8,000 refugees to live in extremely crowded conditions, increasing the likelihood of measles and other outbreaks. The lack of sanitation has resulted in hygiene-related illnesses, respiratory infections, malaria and parasitic diseases. Meanwhile, in Barasalogho, the nearest clean water is an hour drive from the encampment, sometimes forcing residents to drink unsafe wells or streams and increasing the prevalence of cholera or other illnesses.

UNHCR and Doctors Without Borders

Despite the severity of the conflict in Burkina Faso, the situation has received shockingly little international attention. While the UNHCR and Doctors Without Borders (MSF) have played a prominent role in refugee support, the conflict continues to restrict access to many northern communities. MSF, whose primary goal in Burkina Faso is to issue vaccines and curb outbreaks, is working in only two refugee camps. With the situation becoming increasingly tense, the U.N. is urging refugees to seek shelter in camps where the UNHCR and MSF are active.

The sluggish international response has placed the burden of responsibility on the already overwhelmed Burkinabè government. While government rhetoric continues to support democracy and political reform, its response to the extremism has resulted in an unknown number of extrajudicial killings. In less than a year, Human Rights Watch documented at least 116 civilian deaths from government security forces, although the real number is unknown.

As the Burkinabè government struggles to regain stability, the U.N. is calling on the international community to do more. The U.N. Central Emergency Response Fund allocated $4 million early this March, although experts say roughly $100 million is needed to adequately address the crisis. Although the 115,000 forcibly displaced people face a stout uphill climb before the restoration of peace, the future of the Arizona-sized nation is still bright. While a new date for the referendum has not been announced, the steady rise in voter registration and political mobilization suggests reform is on Burkina Faso’s horizon.

– Kyle Dunphey
Photo: Flickr

Countries Fighting Hunger
Countries around the world suffer from hunger and are seeking help to fight the problem. Utilizing education and government can help tremendously to solve this problem, as well as people of those communities coming together can. In this article, five countries that are fighting against hunger are presented.

Five Countries Fighting Hunger

  1. In Burkina Faso, at least 29 percent of children under the age of 5 are suffering from malnutrition. Mothers cannot provide proper nutrition while the baby is in their womb, not even when the baby is born and growing up. This has caused stunting. Children who experience stunted growth are more prone to disease and poor brain function in schools and future careers. Natural disasters such as drought cause shortages in food, and for a country dependent on rainfall agriculture, this is a serious issue. Adding to the issue is Ansarul Islam, a militant group who has been destroying crops and cities. Due to this problem, aid agencies are having difficulty reaching and helping impoverished families. Organizations like Action Against Hunger are fighting to provide meals and educate mothers on proper nutrition and care of their children.
  2. Even after four years after the devastating war in South Sudan that occurred between the government and opposing forces the country is at the brink of famine. At least 6.3 million people are struggling to find enough food to eat and 1.3 million people are facing severe food insecurity. Violence has escalated the hunger crisis since it was declared in March 2017. Due to the relentless fighting, agriculture has plummetted, water is scarce and what is left is contaminated. When a lack of clean water and hygiene are mixed with hunger, it can cause diseases like cholera and diarrhea. In this vicious cycle, malnutrition has made its appearance. Malnutrition weakens the immune system, making people more susceptible to diseases. Emergency aid is keeping half of the population fed, but that still leaves half still struggling. Others are desperate to flee the country as the war continues to damage the land and the people.
  3. The Caribbean countries are also examples of countries fighting hunger, as hunger is widespread in the area. The number of food insecure people in the area in 2017 was at 42.5 million. The economy is slowing down, which affect wages, stocks and taxes. Families are having a hard time providing nutritious food for their children because they can not afford it. Eleven percent of children experience stunting and their future is being eroded by poor nutrition. At least one in four adults are obese. The plan for the region is to completely eradicate hunger and malnutrition by 2025 by strengthening the government’s food security plan. The plan consists of improving rural conditions, reducing poverty, adapting agriculture to climate change and ending food waste. The governments are educating families about agriculture and climate change and promoting sustainable production. Strengthening family farms will increase the food available to the community.
  4. People in Yemen believe they will either die from bombing or hunger. Since 2014, the conflict between the government and the people has brought the country into a humanitarian crisis. The war has destroyed crops and public services like schools and hospitals. Remaining services like food, water and medical supplies are blocked off, forcing about 2.3 million people from their homes. Most of the citizens’ goods are imported because the country’s farms are destroyed. The soldiers are trying to stop imports from coming in, so that means even less food and supplies are being provided. An estimated 10,000 people have had been victims of the war. Even before this conflict, the people of Yemen have suffered from poverty and hunger. To make peace between both sides is the first step in healing a country that is falling apart.
  5. The last country on this list is the Central African Republic, marked as one of the hungriest countries in the world. With a small population of five million people, there should be plenty of food. With beautiful, varied land to grow crops, farmers from all around start getting ready for the planting season to have a bountiful harvest. But the country is in the center of the African continent, in a fragile area amidst conflict. At one point the conflict was so bad it made half the population flee from their home to seek shelter in neighboring countries. Farms were abandoned and so were many businesses, leaving people that remained with little food sources. For a country that is 75 percent agriculture dependent, this left many families malnourished. The country was in a state of panic. It became a land where doing what you could to survive was the only option. The Concern is a worldwide organization dedicated to helping this country with other food aid programmes. These programs will address and educate on issues involving food security, hygiene, nutrition, water, and most importantly, disaster risk reduction. They are out seeking the root of hunger, and in this case, it is conflict, and they plan to tackle the crisis.

Many countries are fighting hunger today. Whether it is climate based, malnutrition, lack of government, lack of education, or even conflict. Organizations like Concern, World Food Bank, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, and the United Nations Children’s Fund are set on breaking the cycle. They have helped every one of these countries fighting hunger, and are helping to many more.

– Kayla Cammarota

Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Hunger in Burkina Faso
The history of Western Africa country of Burkina Faso is layered with various conflicts and complicated cultural conduits. The desperation and vulnerability accompanying the Sahel region, a region in Africa between the Sahara to the north and the Sudanian Savanna to the south, and the food crisis in the region have affected much of the surrounding area, jeopardizing education, jobs and food security. Being in the middle of the crisis, the people of Burkina Faso have suffered immensely. With developmental assistance and diversification of agricultural exports, the crisis will gradually lessen and the economy will strengthen. In the article below, the top 10 facts about hunger in Burkina Faso are presented.

Top 10 Facts About Hunger in Burkina Faso

  1. As of 2011, chronic malnutrition in Burkina Faso was at 34 percent and acute malnutrition was over 10 percent. Severe and acute malnutrition rates passed the emergency threshold in some parts of the country recently in relation to the Sahel food crisis. More than 10 percent of Burkina Faso children suffer from acute malnutrition. Another 30.2 percent of children experience growth stunting, a symptom corresponding to malnutrition.
  2. External debt increased to $3.6 billion in 2018 from $3.2 billion in 2016. Terrorism rose to 4.52 in 2018, the highest index ever recorded for the nation. Security in the country is frequently linked to limited employment availability, poverty, hunger and desperation.
  3. Though Burkina Faso experienced a boost of gross national income of 95.3 percent between 1990 and 2017 due partly to increased cotton production, it remains among the 10 poorest countries in the world. Around 45 percent of Burkina Faso’s population still lives below the poverty line or has an income lower than $1.25 per day.
  4. Swelling insecurity and sporadic attacks on the borders of Mali and Burkina Faso (and other countries in the Sahel region) plague agro-pastoral regions, forcing families to flee. The conflict and droughts have raged on since 2012 and displaced many, including the 24,000 Malian refugees who fled to Burkina Faso. Levels of violence are proportionate to the levels of child malnutrition and food shortage.
  5. The cost of food in Burkina Faso increased by 2.7 percent between August 2017 and August 2018. At the same time, less money is coming into Burkina Faso as exports fell from 602.2 units in July to 434.8 units in 2019.
  6. Cotton accounts for 70 percent of Burkina Faso’s exports. When Burkina Faso’s government phased out genetically engineered cotton seeds in 2017, cotton production plummeted. Farmers are worried the country will not regain ground unless the agricultural sector modernizes. Mali cotton production surpassed Burkina Faso for the first time in a decade. Studies reported by the Alliance for Science show the introduction of genetically engineered cotton to Burkina Faso led to a 22 percent increase in yield and households gained an average profit of 51 percent. However, the government’s rejection of genetically engineered cotton reversed all this progression, and drought and pasture shortages affected the highly agricultural country as well.
  7. Cotton agriculture employs about 20 percent of the working population, a number that has been challenged due to the struggling production and phasing out of genetically engineered seeds. Seidu Konatey, a local farmer, expressed in early 2018 that if the situation continues through 2019, his farm will abandon cotton production. Refugees and displaced families have very little job security, a number exacerbated by the conflicts in the Sahel region.
  8. Burkina Faso is a great example to show how a lower than the average Human Development Index can affect education. Country’s 1.5 mean years of schooling is well below the low Human Development Index bar of 4.7 years. The average number of school years in sub-Saharan Africa overall is 5.6 years, with Burkina Faso resting at the meager end of the scale.
  9. The World Food Program (WFP) has been helping those impacted by the Sahel food crisis since 2012 by providing treatment for acute malnutrition and dispensing food. WFP also distributes food and assistance to orphans and HIV patients and provides breakfast and school lunches to children in the Sahel region. Supporting farmers’ organizations by linking them with buyers, offering training, and restoring land, WFP combats hunger on many levels.
  10. The number of people from Burkina Faso in need of food quadrupled in 2018. The European Union directed $18.2 million in 2018 to Burkina Faso, ensuring children receive the nutrition and medicines they need. The EU gave treatment to 187,000 children under the age of 5 and launched a new disaster risk reduction program this year. This includes resilience methods such as safety nets and free health care.

Diversification of the agricultural force in Burkina Faso will help strengthen the market and shift the focus from stalling cotton crops toward the production of different products. Projects promoting greater production and technological advances in agricultural work towards lifting the extremely impoverished out of this cycle. Greater exports and modernization of the industry will contribute to less hunger and a more balanced economy that can alleviate food inflation. Humanitarian aid has made a difference, as these top 10 facts about hunger in Burkina Faso show, but millions of people are still in need of food security and medical assistance for acute malnutrition.

– Hannah Peterson
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Burkina Faso
Located in Western Africa, Burkina Faso is the country with a lot of problems that are affecting over 20 million of its people.

The unemployment rate has increased constantly in the previous years, and a lot of work needs to be done regarding this issue.

Developments have been made in efforts to reduce poverty, one of them being the work of active labor market program, or ALMPs.

In addition, the National Housing Program is helping in the endeavor to meet the need for affordable housing. There have also been efforts to commit to providing education for all citizens by 2015.

With continued effort, more developments can be seen in aiding people’s lives in Burkina Faso.

In the article below, top 10 facts about living conditions in Burkina Faso are presented.

Top 10 Facts about Living Conditions in Burkina Faso

  1. The unemployment rate of the total labor force increased from 2.6 percent to 6.4 percent from 1991 to 2016. From 2000 to 2016, the unemployment rate for women has increased from 2.8 percent to 9.3 percent, and the youth unemployment rate has risen from 3.8 percent to 8.6 percent in the same period.
  2. The country is still struggling to reduce its poverty rate in order to improve living conditions. With population and labor force growth, the country has not yet lifted its people out of poverty by a high number. According to a World Bank report on employment and skills development in Burkina Faso, the country must create more than 400,000 new jobs by 2030, given the population dynamics.
  3. In the same report of the World Bank, a number of solutions to combat and reduce poverty are presented. One way to help all people achieve growth is to create an investment environment that aids people. Another way is to enhance the infrastructure and financial system and bolster economic governance, health and education.
  4. Another strategy to generate jobs and reduce poverty is to find and support the most effective policies. One initiative to combat poverty is the Active Labor Market Programs (ALMPs). The purpose of these programs is to increase the chance of being employed and to increase jobs in the country. ALMPs are comprised of training people in order to get them employment and increasing demand for jobs through initiatives such as public works.
  5. Burkina Faso has a growing housing finance sector. There is a strong correlation between urbanization and housing. As more people are moving to cities, there is also a higher demand for affordable housing. Currently, the urbanization rate in the country is 5.73 percent. One successful way to increase the amount of housing is through microfinance.
  6. Estimates from the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development show that the urban population in Burkina Faso will double by 2030. The National Housing Program started by the government is one initiative that is part of the solution to address the need for affordable housing. The initiative endeavors to provide 40,000 houses by 2020 to low-income families. The initiative also aims to provide sustainable solutions for the need for affordable housing.
  7. With the help from some community health initiatives, some progress has been made in bolstering the national health system. The national health system in Burkina Faso is made up of the public and private medical sector. One positive development in this area has been hospital reform, that aimed to deliver emergency care without prepayment.
  8. While the budget of the Ministry of Health has increased, it is still far away from a satisfactory level. The budget increased from $132,6 million in 2007 to $162,3 million in 2009. The percentage of the state budget aimed towards the health sector has risen from 15.21 percent in 2008 to 15.46 percent in 2009.
  9. Burkina Faso has some of the lowest literacy and school enrollment rates in the world. The literacy rate has risen by 30 percent in 2001 to 32.5 percent in 2005. Primary school net enrolment ratio in 2011 was 63.2 percent.
  10. Out of the total children in schools, 65.7 percent of boys are enrolled in school, compared to 54.5 percent of girls. The country has committed to the 10-year Plan on the Development of Basic Education and the National Policy of Integrated Development of Children.

While unemployment has increased and there is still more work to be done in closing the gender gap in education, living conditions in Burkina Faso have improved, as seen in poverty reduction efforts through ALMPs and providing affordable housing.

With more sustained effort, Burkina Faso can achieve more positive developments in helping to enhance the quality of life for all.

– Daniel McAndrew-Greiner
Photo: Flickr

Dengue Fever in Burkina Faso
Dengue is a viral infection transmitted by the Aedes Aegypti and Aedes Albopictus female mosquitos. There are four different types of the virus currently known as DENV-1, DENV-2, DENV-3 and DENV-4.

Almost half of the people infected with dengue exhibit no specific symptoms, especially since the virus causes flu-like symptoms such as high fever and muscle pain. When left untreated, these symptoms progress to the deadly dengue hemorrhagic fever and cause vomiting, abdominal pain, uncontrolled bleeding, convulsions and circulatory system failure. Dengue is diagnosed by serological or molecular tests. Early and accurate diagnosis is crucial to saving lives and preventing the progression of the infection.

As in most tropical regions with prolonged rainy seasons, the climate of Burkina Faso makes it an optimal breeding ground for mosquitos. Dengue is considered an endemic illness. In recent years, the country has faced outbreaks of this disease in 2016 and 2017. In 2016, there were almost 2,000 suspected cases with 86 percent of cases concentrated in the central region of the country. In the 2017 outbreak, the number of suspected cases jumped to almost 7,000 with 64 percent of infections, again, concentrated in the central region.

Urbanization and Dengue

The central region of Burkina Faso includes the capital city of Ouagadougou. Ouagadougou’s rapid urbanization over the last 30 years has contributed to increased cases of dengue fever in Burkina Faso. From 2000 to 2010, the city’s population grew from 800,000 to 1.9 million. This growth is expected to rise by 81 percent to a staggering population of 3.4 million by 2020.

Increased migration to Ouagadougou from rural regions and nearby countries led to spontaneous settlements uncontrolled by the authorities. Between 2004 and 2009, unplanned residential areas grew by 60 percent. These settlements are prone to overcrowding and poor sanitation infrastructure. Stagnant water from the rainy season also makes the settlements more susceptible to mosquitos and dengue.

Response to Dengue Outbreaks

During both the 2016 and 2017 outbreaks, the Burkina Faso Ministry of Health declared a state of emergency that allowed for assistance from The Alliance for International Medical Action (ALIMA) and World Health Organization (WHO).

In 2016, ALIMA provided 2,100 Rapid Diagnosis Tests (RDTs) to help doctors to accurately diagnose dengue and begin surveillance of the outbreak. The more widespread outbreak of 2017 required a greater response from WHO. The organization provided 15,000 RDTs and 1,500 insecticidal nets to hospitals. WHO also trained 5,500 community volunteers that worked to destroy mosquito-breeding sites in Ouagadougou. These interventions allowed for the slow decline of cases and the continued spread of dengue infections.

Future of Dengue in Burkina Faso

In both outbreak years mentioned above, the financial burden of the outbreak response was shouldered by WHO and ALIMA. The Ministry of Health has identified the importance of strengthening the health care surveillance system so that there are early warnings of future outbreaks of dengue fever in the country.

Vector control methods such as the destruction of mosquito-breeding sites and proper sanitation infrastructure in susceptible areas of Ouagadougou are necessary to prevent continued outbreaks. Finally, early and accurate diagnosis of dengue will save lives through timely treatment and medication.

These targets are the core focus of the Integrated Research Program for the Control of Dengue Fever in Burkina Faso. This program began in 2015 as a five-year collaborative research effort between medical schools in Ouagadougou and Japan. The Japanese Agency for Medical Research and Development plans to invest more than $650 thousand each year to reach the targets by 2020.

As of September 2017, the research program has developed a new detection device that allows for easy virus inspection of mosquitos. This technology will assist detect potential infections and avoid outbreaks. The program is currently working to develop a strategy to limit the replication of dengue in mosquitos which will also help to prevent outbreaks.

The dengue fever has been a very serious problem in Burkina Faso in the past years. The joint effort of various nongovernmental organizations and the country’s government has helped eliminate the crisis in the past two virus outbreaks. This effort will help change the future of dengue fever in Burkina Faso and allow the country to equip itself to properly respond to any new potential outbreaks.

– Chinanu Chi-Ukpai
Photo: Flickr

U.S. Benefits from Foreign Aid to Burkina FasoTo the public, information about the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Burkina Faso other countries is largely absent. Meanwhile, aid to Burkina Faso is at risk. After the election of President Trump in 2016 and his “America First” policy that pushes for decreases in U.S. humanitarian aid up to 37 percent, aid programs operating in Burkina Faso are placed in a questionable situation. Will they be able to continue operating?

The Marie Stopes Ladies

The Marie Stopes Ladies is a nongovernmental organization that works to provide family planning advice and sexual health-related services to the people of Burkina Faso. This country has an unsustainable fertility rate of 5.5 births per woman and is in desperate need of the services the MS Ladies provide. With policies such as “America First,” coupled with a push to cut funding towards any organizations which abortion and post-abortion care, organizations such as the MS Ladies, which was previously entirely funded with a grant of $1.25 million from the USAID, will no longer be eligible for any money. The nongovernmental organizations remain ineligible for funding even if the abortion care and advice are funded by other sources.

Given the reality of the foreign aid situation and the fact that the existence of many organizations, not just the MS Ladies, is at risk, it is important to address the many U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Burkina Faso—and leverage these benefits as a motive to sustain and possibly increase the aid budget.

Benefits for Burkina Faso and for the US

Intuitively, one should know how U.S. aid benefits Burkina Faso: efforts are focused on providing security, education and health-related programs. In fact, eradicating malaria in Burkina Faso is part of the President’s Malaria Initiative, designed under the administration of President Bush to treat and prevent malaria in sub-Saharan Africa. Thus, Burkina Faso would benefit from mitigating hunger, fostering education and economic growth, as well as increased life expectancies through a healthier population.

Yet, these benefits are also part of how the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Burkina Faso. In fighting malaria in Burkina Faso, the U.S. becomes closer to reaching the goals of the President’s Malaria Initiative. By providing food security and treating other illnesses, the U.S. helps create a country that is more economically viable and can serve as a  potential economic partner. While the top import to the United States from Burkina Faso is gold, the U.S. has many investment possibilities in an emerging economy through its communications and energy sectors, not just mining.

Moreover, working with and providing humanitarian aid to Burkina Faso fosters greater safety at home. U.S. relations with Burkina Faso often focus on counterterrorism efforts, as well as general peacekeeping. Maintaining friendly relations also supports the U.S. goal of democratization in the region, a goal which truly hits the pulse of patriotism. To support democracy and peacekeeping abroad, what should be an essential underlying ideology of the United States, offers a far more rational notion of patriotism than the entirely self-interested rhetoric of “America First.”

The Support of US Citizens

The U.S. citizens generally support foreign aid. The U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Burkina Faso because the people from the U.S. believe it is a good thing. Only 5 percent of Americans, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation, knew how little the U.S. spent on foreign aid. The average guess was 26 percent of the federal budget. The actual total is less than 1 percent.

Once made aware of the discrepancy, less than 30 percent of participants thought the U.S. should decrease its foreign aid budget. Policies such as “America First” work as misdirections: they suggest to a public which is comfortable with, and supportive of a much larger foreign aid budget, that the U.S. is overspending. Providing aid, instead, proves governmental responsibility, and efficacy, to its people.

The Human Development Index value for Burkina Faso (assessed in 2017) is at 0.423 and it ranks the country in the bottom five countries in the world. Yet, while there is evidence Burkina Faso needs aid, in ten years it saw its value increase over 23 percent. That same span of time saw the average life expectancy increase over five years, and the average number of years of schooling increased by 64 percent. To continue these trends, the U.S. needs to continue providing aid, both for Burkina Faso and for itself.

To really put “America First” means also to care about the rest of the world. The U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Burkina Faso, but the U.S. needs to continue working to provide greater benefits for both parties.

– William Wilcox
Photo: Flickr