Female Genital Mutilation in Burkina FasoBurkina Faso is a small country located in West Africa and is one of the most impoverished countries in the world. Accordingly, it also has one of the weakest healthcare systems in place for women and children. Approximately 10% of all children born in Burkina Faso die before the age of 5 and more than 300 women out of 100,000 live births die during pregnancy or labor. Burkina Faso is also among the top 10 countries in the world with the highest prevalence of female genital mutilation (FGM).

Female Genital Mutilation in Burkina Faso

According to UNICEF, in 2010 it was found that 76% of Burkinese women have undergone female genital mutilation. However, the prevalence of FGM in Burkina Faso has significantly declined during the past two decades. In 1999, 83.6% of women had undergone cutting. This rate dropped to 76.1% in 2010. The decline has much to do with the country’s ban on female genital mutilation, passed in 1996 and further criminalized in 2018 with additional prison sentences and fines.

Since the ban, a declining trend in the prevalence of FGM has taken place among women of lower age groups. Older generations are now less likely to pass down the practice. Additionally, a change in sentiment has coincided with the decrease in prevalence. Only 9% of people in Burkina Faso believe that female genital mutilation should be continued, with support for the practice coming mostly from rural communities.

Government Intervention

Burkina Faso’s government also recognizes that a law is not enough to completely eradicate female genital mutilation. Strong cultural and religious beliefs have kept female circumcision rituals active. The legislation does not have much sway over a firmly established tradition. To fully combat the problem, the Burkinabé Government established the National Committee for the Fight against Female Genital Mutilation(CNLPE) in 1990. Since then, the committee has successfully led a nationwide campaign against female genital mutilation. The CNLPE has fought to end the practice in several ways.

How the CNLPE Fights Female Genital Mutilation

  • A national hotline was created for Burkinese citizens to anonymously report instances of female genital mutilation.
  • Police and magistrates patrol villages to investigate potential cases of female genital mutilation and offer counsel.
  • Educational campaigns on FGM in Burkina Faso reached more than 300 remote villages.
  • Awareness of the issue has been publicized in nearly every form of media. Media is used to disseminate information on female genital mutilation in local languages across the country.
  • Information on the practice has become a part of the curriculum in primary and secondary schools.

Looking Ahead

Burkina Faso has become one of the most committed countries in the fight to eliminate female genital mutilation. Banning the practice in 1996, combined with various efforts from the CNLPE, resulted in a decrease in FGM nationally. Although the issue has gained support, some rural villages have started performing genital mutilation on girls at younger ages. This is done, “so that they are either less willing to talk about what has happened to them or to seek help.” Though there is more work to be done, Burkina Faso is moving in the right direction in ending FGM for good.

– Eliza Kirk
Photo: Flickr

Malnutrition in Burkina FasoBurkina Faso is a country in West Africa that is home to more than 20.9 million people. The Burkinabe people have dealt with ongoing instability, displacement and food insecurity as the result of the dissolution of a government regime in 2014. With 40% of the country’s population living in poverty, there is a clear need for humanitarian assistance. Humanitarian organizations like the World Food Programme have been working to help combat food insecurity and malnutrition in Burkina Faso.

Current Situation in Burkina Faso

The World Food Programme (WFP) released its 2020 Annual Country Report for Burkina Faso, which contains various statistics and the humanitarian goals for the country until 2023. Burkina Faso has experienced an 80% increase in the number of internally displaced people (IDPs) since 2019, with more than one million IDPs. The WFP estimates that 15% of the country’s population, or 3.3 million people, face food insecurity.

Save the Children, a humanitarian aid organization, states that more than 1.5 million children under 5 are affected by the nutrition crisis in Burkina Faso. COVID-19 has worsened the situation in Burkina Faso as it becomes more difficult to get humanitarian aid to those in need. Other factors contributing to the current food insecurity crisis in Burkina Faso include the armed conflict, droughts and poverty.

Humanitarian Response

The WFP states that the number of people it reached in 2020 doubled compared to 2019, with the WFP reaching more than two million people. The WFP has worked in Burkina Faso to provide people with cash transfers and emergency school feeding initiatives. It also provided more than 305,000 children as well as pregnant and lactating women with treatment for acute malnutrition. The organization’s ability to help the Burkinabe people weakened as COVID-19, access and security restraints as well as regional instability made it more difficult for assistance to reach vulnerable populations.

Save the Children has been working in Burkina Faso since 1982, reaching more than 85,000 children in 2020. The nonprofit is focusing its efforts on providing children with a healthy start to their lives, providing children with opportunities to learn and protecting them from any potential harm. The organization has been working with the Burkina Faso Ministry of Health to strengthen healthcare systems in the country. The organization has programs that provide food assistance, clean water, sanitation and hygiene products to children, pregnant women and mothers.

Save the Children works with schools and teachers to create literacy centers to improve the quality of education for children. An alternative education program called Youth in Action focuses on providing an education to IDPs and children without access to school. The education program focuses on literacy, basic finance knowledge and developing life skills. The organization is also working to protect children from dangerous jobs, educating people on ways to protect their children and promoting parenting methods that support children. Other efforts also promote local organizations that are actively working to provide children with more opportunities and end child marriage in Burkina Faso.

Looking Forward

With 40% of the population living in poverty, increasing insecurity from conflict and more than a million IDPs, Burkina Faso is facing a growing humanitarian crisis that requires continued humanitarian attention to combat. COVID-19 has caused the conditions in Burkina Faso to deteriorate as humanitarian assistance becomes more difficult to deliver. The WFP and Save the Children intend to increase efforts to combat malnutrition in Burkina Faso by providing nutritious food, building resilience and empowering the Burkinabe people.

Gerardo Valladares
Photo: Flickr

Burkina Faso Compact II to Lift 8 Million Out of Poverty
Despite having one of the fastest-growing economies in Africa, the nation of Burkina Faso struggles with significant developmental challenges. One such challenge is a lack of adequate access to affordable electricity across the country, which the Burkina Faso Compact II will combat.

Electricity and the Economy

A lack of access to electricity ties to a lack of economic opportunity. When a country or area receives proper access to electrical grids and services, new businesses can open, existing businesses can operate on a higher level and jobs can emerge.

The Millennium Challenge Corporation’s (MCC) Burkina Faso Compact II is a program intended to address the nation’s electricity challenges to promote a healthy economy and lift 8 million people out of poverty.

Burkina Faso Compact II

Burkina Faso is one of the most impoverished nations in the world. In 2017, the Gross National Income per capita was $610. The majority of the impoverished also live in rural areas, with approximately 90% of impoverished households in Burkina Faso in rural parts of the country.

Although the nation has a high rate of poverty, it is home to one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies. In 2019, Burkina Faso’s GDP was growing at a rate of 6%. Experts believe the high concentration of poverty in rural areas is due to low rates of agricultural productivity, social isolation, underemployment and inadequate access to electricity. The recent improvement in the GDP growth rate is a result of the positive performances of the agricultural and mining sectors.

The Millenium Change Corporation’s Burkina Faso Compact II was signed on August 13, 2020. The Burkina Faso Compact II dedicates itself to connecting more of the country to electrical grids. The MCC has dedicated $450 million in grants and funding to the goal of widespread electricity.

MCC’s Compact Projects

In addition to MCC’s contribution, the Burkinabe government agreed to contribute $50 million to the compact projects. The program focuses on three smaller electricity projects: The Strengthening Electricity Sector Effectiveness Project, the Cost-Effective and Reliable Energy Supply Project and the Grid Development and Access Project. These projects will work together in order to help Burkina Faso increase access to electrical grids for all citizens.

Of the $450 million that will go toward improving addressing the issue of electricity, $210.7 million is for the Grid Development and Access Project alone. This project is particularly important to reaching the goal of widespread and accessible electricity nationwide. In the Grid Development and Access Project, the MCC hopes to aid in reducing power outages and increasing access to electrical services.

The Strengthening Electricity Sector Effectiveness Project and The Cost-Effective and Reliable Energy Supply Project received $46.9 million and $99.5 million respectively. The goal of the Strengthening Electricity Sector Effectiveness Project is to strengthen the electricity sector through important reforms, including building up the capacity of national utilities, the Ministry of Energy and regulators. The Cost-Effective Energy Supply Project aims to implement lower energy costs by introducing solar power, battery storage and improving electricity dispatch centers.

Burkina Faso Compact II Long-Term

This compact is the second project MCC has taken on in Burkina Faso. The first Burkina Faso Compact included $480 million to improve infrastructure, agriculture, girls’ education and water management. Since the completion of the project in 2014, Burkinabe government ministries have been maintaining what the project implemented. This shows great promise for the Burkina Faso Compact II.

In the long term, the Burkina Faso Compact II will ultimately improve living conditions and economic stability for more than 8 million people across Burkina Faso, leading to lower rates of poverty. Improving access and affordability of electricity is a positive step toward improving Burkina Faso’s economy.

– Maddi Miller
Photo: Flickr

Access to Water and Sanitation
The U.S. investments that have been working toward improving access to water and sanitation have been particularly focussed on building a more water-secure world during the coronavirus pandemic. So far, the pandemic has affected the lives of billions all over the world and the most vulnerable in particular, already struggling with health and sanitation challenges. According to the OECD, before COVID-19, the African continent had already faced a slowdown in growth and poverty reduction. The organization added that “the current crisis could erase years of development gains.”

The pandemic could impact people already struggling with hunger and poverty. Several international organizations estimated that the number of starving people could have increased to 132 billion by the end of 2020.

To support countries struggling with water and sanitation access during the global pandemic, USAID re-configurated the priorities the Water for World Act of 2014 listed.

How does the global pandemic challenge water security and, in turn, how does USAID respond to these challenges? Before tackling these two questions, this article will give a brief background on the Water for World Act of 2014 and discuss its reconfiguration in light of the recent events regarding sanitation.

The 2014 Water for World Act and WASH Programs

The Water for World Act of 2014 is a reform bill that emerged from the 2005 Water for the Poor Act which made water, sanitation and hygiene – conveniently called WASH – top priorities in the federal foreign aid plan. In an attempt to make data more transparent, optimize aid strategies and improve water support, Congress voted for the Water for World Act in 2014. However, in 2020, the pandemic accelerated the need for global access to water and sanitation.

To address this concern, USAID re-designated 18 high-priority countries according to criteria such as lack of access to water, inadequate sanitation conditions and opportunities to make progress in these areas. Some of the high-priority countries are the Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, India, Kenya and South Sudan. In doing so, USAID intended to leverage WASH programs and enable vulnerable populations to have continual access to clean water during this critical period.

Current Challenges to Water Security

Access to water and sanitation is a basic human right and the current pandemic underscored the emergency to settle this right in the most vulnerable countries. Populations receive daily reminders to wash their hands and keep a healthy diet to prevent the propagation of the virus and save lives. However, the lack of clean, drinkable water is not only amplifying the already precarious living conditions of vulnerable populations, but it is also making it harder for these countries to stop virus transmission.

COVID-19 tends to affect vulnerable populations the most: poor communities, minorities and people living in crowded areas. According to UN-Habitat, it is clear that the pandemic affects the world’s most vulnerable populations the hardest because they lack sustainable access to water and sanitation.

For instance, India is the second-leading country in the world for most cases of COVID-19. It had almost 11 million cases on February 21, 2021. This number directly links to the country’s crowded rural areas and the lack of access to running water. At the end of 2020, more than 21% of the Indian population showed evidence of exposure to the virus. Meanwhile, in Bangladesh, Rohingya refugees living in a refugee camp are crowded with a population density four to seven times more than New York City, putting them in high-risk situations.

How WASH Programs Help

WASH programs helped high-priority countries respond to the pandemic in 2020. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, USAID and the World Bank financed WASH campaigns to improve the population’s handwashing behaviors.

Meanwhile, in Ethiopia, they collaborated with the local authorities to improve access to water and sanitation in health care facilities. In Haiti, WASH services included purchasing chlorine to clean water and installing water supply in markets, health centers, orphanages and prisons. According to the World Bank report, ensuring that these countries have safe access to water and sanitation is a necessary medium-term response to the pandemic.

US Investments and Improving Access to Water and Sanitation

U.S. investments aim to provide financial support for water service providers. For instance, in June 2020, USAID partnered with UNICEF in Mozambique to provide subsidies covering the cost of private water providers.

USAID also financed programs that relay information about handwashing. In April 2020, U.S. investments financed radio campaigns in Burkina Faso promoting a new handwashing system expanding access to hygiene in more areas. Data has shown that these programs made a difference in terms of transmission. In fact, transmission levels went down in both Mozambique and Burkina Faso from June to December 2020.

USAID also focused on health care facilities and on supporting health care workers in priority countries by training and protecting them. WASH programs trained more than 16,000 workers in diverse locations such as Senegal, India, Bangladesh, Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire. USAID support in Senegal was one of many successes: 447 officers and 549 health workers received training while the programs also resulted in the installation of 497 public handwashing stands in health facilities and high-risk places. They also distributed 2,423 handwashing kits to families with COVID-19.

Looking Ahead

Despite the crises of the past year, one can spot at least one positive outcome: global leaders have had to rethink access to water and sanitation. The pandemic increased global awareness about the importance of water and sanitation security, all over the world. U.S. investments to improve water and sanitation accessibility under the Water for World Act provide help during sanitary and water emergencies, even during these challenging times. The recent update about the high-priority status for designated countries is not the only positive news on the horizon. USAID administrator John Barsa has also signed the Sanitation and Water for all World Leaders call to action. His signature confirms what many have come to realize over the past year; international collaboration is key to fight the pandemic and secure better living conditions for all.

– Soizic Lecocq
Photo: Flickr

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