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

New Mosquito NetsTwo weeks ago, The Lancet published a promising study on the effectiveness of a new type of mosquito net. After a two-year trial period in Burkina Faso, the researchers found the new mosquito nets, treated with two insecticides, decreased cases of malaria by 12 percent. These findings promise strong potential for lowering the risk of malaria worldwide with the implementation of these new mosquito nets.

This research is a collaboration among several institutions including Durham University, Burkina Faso’s National Center for Malaria Research and Training, Liverpool’s School of Tropical Medicine and the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute.

Malaria Worldwide

According to The World Health Organization, almost 50 percent of the world’s population was at risk of contracting malaria in 2016. While risk areas exist around the world, sub-Saharan Africa suffers the most cases of malaria each year.

In 2016, sub-Saharan Africa had 90 percent of the world’s malaria cases and 91 percent of the world’s malaria-related deaths. Though malaria-related deaths have declined significantly, from 440,000 in 2010 to 285,000 in 2016, malaria is still a great threat to health worldwide. Traditional, chemically-treated mosquito nets have helped to reduce the cases of malaria, however, as mosquitoes grow more resistant, these traditional nets have become less effective, leaving users more vulnerable to malaria infection.

The World Health Organization estimated there were five million more cases of malaria in 2016 compared to the total number of malaria cases in 2015. The above-mentioned study’s mosquito nets address this problem, by targeting insecticide-resistant mosquitoes that are causing these problems.

New Mosquito Nets

The older mosquito nets generally have a pyrethroid insecticide treatment, intended to kill mosquitoes on contact. This treatment has become less effective with time since the mosquitoes have developed a resistance to the insecticide. The new nets, presented in the research, combat this issue, by using a different insecticide.

The new insecticide is effective because it combines traditional pyrethroid treatment with another agent, pyriproxyfen. Pyriproxyfen works as an insect growth regulator, shortening the lifespan of mosquitoes and thus their ability to transmit disease, as well as reproduce.

According to professor Steve Lindsay, who worked on the study, this combination of chemicals has three main benefits: it kills more mosquitos, reduces the number of mosquito bites and decreases the likelihood that mosquitoes will develop resistance to the chemical mixture.

Results in Burkina Faso

A two-year trial, conducted in Burkina Faso, demonstrated the effectiveness of these new mosquito nets, treated with pyrethroid and pyriproxyfen. Burkina Faso was ideal for the study, due to the high number of malaria cases. Located in sub-Saharan Africa, Burkina Faso has more than 10 million cases of malaria every year. Mosquitoes in Burkina Faso were also ideal test subjects since they exhibit high resistance to pyrethroid treatment. According to Professor Lindsay, 80 percent of mosquitoes in Burkina Faso are so resistant to pyrethroid, they are no longer killed by it.

Researchers conducted the study in 91 villages throughout rural areas of the country. By switching traditional mosquito nets with nets treated with the new chemical blend, researchers saw a 12 percent decrease in malaria cases. Furthermore, the overall exposure to mosquitoes dropped by over 50 percent during the test period.

With these results, the researchers concluded the trial mosquito nets offer increased protection against malaria as opposed to standard pyrethroid-treated nets. They also recommended that these new nets replace standard nets in areas with high malaria transmission rates and high instances of insecticide resistance among mosquitoes.

Future Potential

Although 12 percent reduction in malaria cases may seem marginal, on a global scale and in real numbers, this decrease in malaria infection would be monumental. As Professor Lindsay noted, if the nets were used across all of Burkina Faso during the two-year trial, researchers would expect 1.2 million fewer cases of malaria in the population overall.

Dr. Alfred B. Tiono, who headed the field study, has great hope for the impact these new mosquito nets could have globally. He believes, if used correctly, the nets could prevent millions of malaria cases worldwide. It is still unclear how costly large-scale manufacturing of the dual-chemical nets will be. However, Professor Lindsay remains hopeful the manufacturing costs will not exceed the costs of producing traditional nets. If only one life is saved by applying the new nets, no price is too high to pay.

– Morgan Harden
Photo: Google

Facts About Poverty in Burkina FasoBurkina Faso is a small sub-Saharan African country with a population of 18 million. Often described as one of the world’s poorest countries, the most recent reports estimate that roughly 40 percent of Burkinabè live below the poverty line. While this statistic can be staggering, it is important to take a closer look at the context in which this statistic is produced. In order to achieve this, The Borgen Project offers a list of the top 10 facts about poverty in Burkina Faso.

Top 10 Facts About Poverty in Burkina Faso

  1. Burkina Faso’s Human Development Index Value (HDI)  ranks 185 out of 188 countries: The HDI is a measure of a population’s quality of life, access to education and standard of living. According to the United Nations Development Programme, Burkina Faso received a rating of 0.402 in 2015. This value is an improvement from 2005 when Burkina Faso was given a score of 0.325. However, a great deal of progress is still needed in order to attain an acceptable HDI score.
  2. Burkinabè poverty statistics are subject to significant fluctuation: While it is reported that roughly 45 percent of Burkinabè live below the poverty line, a sizeable portion of households teeter just above this line. Therefore, small variations in household incomes significantly affect the actual number of those living in poverty.
  3. Burkina Faso’s economy is expanding: In 2015, the annual GDP growth was 4 percent. In the time span of a year, the GDP growth increased by another 2 percent, increasing Burkina Faso’s rate of growth by 66.1 percent. This expansion is largely the result of urbanization and improved performance in the agricultural and mining sectors.
  4. Burkina Faso’s high fertility rates have limited the positive effects of the expanding economy: Burkina Faso has one of the highest fertility rates in the world with an average of five children per woman in 2015. Even though the country had experienced a 6 percent annual economic growth rate between 2003 and 2013, increasing family sizes have largely negated the positive impact of this economic growth.
  5. The majority of Burkinabè rely on agriculture: Burkina Faso’s main export is cotton. In recent years, the economy has also benefited from mining gold. However, because the economy is so dependent on the success of a single growing season, natural disasters and unfavorable weather conditions can submerge many households into even deeper poverty. Up to two-thirds of households report being affected annually by these economic blows.
  6. Poverty in Burkina Faso is a hardship endured primarily by members of agrarian society: Geographic location can often predict the economic standing of the Burkinabè. Around 90 percent of those living in poverty reside in rural areas. In the capital city of Ouagadougou, one of the fastest growing cities in sub-Saharan Africa, only 10 percent of the population live in poverty.
  7. Educational enrollment is disproportionately low in rural areas: In 2010, only 45 percent of primary school-age children living in rural areas were enrolled in primary school. Even less, 28 percent of secondary school-age children were enrolled in secondary school. Comparatively, 83 percent of children in urban areas were enrolled in primary school, and 60 percent of were enrolled in secondary school.
  8. The vast majority of Burkinabè poor do not have access to electricity: Less than 5 percent of the poorest households are connected to the national electricity grid. Whereas, over 50 percent of the wealthy have access to these grids. Which shows that only a fraction of the poor communities has access to such a basic service.  
  9. In 2018, the U.S. government intends to provide $14.3 million in foreign assistance: It was initially intended that 98 percent of this money go towards improving overall health in Burkina Faso. However, as of June, the U.S. had already donated $11.83 million, but only 24 percent of that money has gone towards health. At least 46 percent has gone towards humanitarian assistance. The remainder has gone towards a combination of education, social services and economic development.
  10. Progress is being made but at a gradual pace: At the moment, 8.145 million are living on less than $1.25 a day. At this rate, it would take 25 years for the average income per person to double. Comparatively, Ethiopia and Rwanda will double their per capita income in as few as 7 to 10 years.

These top 10 facts about poverty in Burkina Faso reveal the progress being made to combat the country’s unacceptably high poverty rates as well as some important areas where the country must focus more on improvement. In order to accelerate the progress, those in a position to do so must deepen their investment in the poor. This investment would include education, access to basic utilities, improved agricultural technology and expansion in employment opportunities. Through a reinvigorated commitment, the staggering poverty rates in Burkina Faso could be minimized.  

– Joanna Dooley
Photo: Flickr

media misrepresents Burkina FasoOftentimes, the media misrepresents Burkina Faso, a landlocked country in western Africa. Major journalist outlets like the New York Times or the Guardian usually only take note of terrorist or militia attacks in the country or diplomatic exchanges like when Burkina Faso most recently tied itself to China after renouncing connections to Taiwan.

How the Media Misrepresents Burkina Faso

The New York Times’ website portrays how the media misrepresents Burkina Faso, with articles that carry headlines like “Militants Carry Out Deadly Attacks in Burkina Faso” or “Gunmen Kill 18 at Restaurant in Burkina Faso.” This is not to say that the Times only report these negative events, as it also has an article titled “U.S. Pledges $60 Million for Antiterrorism Force in Africa” with Burkina Faso being cited as one of the beneficiaries.

In the past year, the Times published three articles about violence, two neutral-leaning articles about diplomacy with China and Taiwan and only 1 positive article, which was about France returning artifacts to the country. Overall, the media misrepresents Burkina Faso through its tendency to post negative articles.

The Death Penalty

Another way the media misrepresents Burkina Faso is by not covering the improvements the country has made, especially about humanitarian issues. As of June 1, 2018, Burkina Faso outlawed the death penalty with Justice Minister Rene Bagoro stating that the passing of the new law allows for “more credible, equitable, accessible and effective justice in the application of criminal law.”

While the country’s last known execution was in 1988, Burkina Faso hasn’t used the death penalty for 30 years. However, the passing of the law strengthens the country’s humanitarian resolve. This new parliamentary decision has been applauded by groups ranging from Amnesty International to the Catholic Church, which demonstrates that human rights movements are progressing in the country.

Clean Water Access

Another way the media misrepresents Burkina Faso is with the country’s access to clean water. In 2015, UNICEF reported 76 percent of the rural population and 97 percent of the urban population had access to clean drinking water, meeting or exceeding the country’s water-related millennium goals. Compared to neighboring country Ghana’s 66 percent rural access and 88 percent urban access, Burkina Faso is a leader in the region.

Access to clean water is one of the biggest problems in Saharan and Sub-Saharan Africa, where North African countries lead the charge with 92 percent safe water coverage in 2014 as reported by the U.N. However, 40 percent of the 783 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa go without clean drinking water. This is a major problem for Africa, but one Burkina Faso has been ahead of the curve on.

This improvement can be heavily attributed to the National Office for Water and Sanitation (ONEA), which is a state-run utility company that began operating in the 1990s. According to the World Bank, it is a “capable state company with the ability to absorb external funding effectively.” The World Bank also says Burkina Faso is a model country in Francophone West Africa in regards to its water capabilities.

Despite how the media misrepresents Burkina Faso, there have been improvements in the small West African country, as shown in humanitarian and clean water improvements. While there is a still a long way to go for Burkina Faso in regards to humanitarian efforts and overall infrastructure, it is still important to acknowledge the progress that has already been made.

– Dylan Redman
Photo: Flickr

Infrastructure In Burkina FasoMore than 50 percent of the 100 million people living in the Sahel region of Africa, which includes Burkina Faso, lack access to adequate housing. This is partly caused by deforestation and the spread of arid landscapes, leading to a scarcity of timber used for traditional housing construction that has dramatically impacted infrastructure in Burkina Faso.

The modern materials used in its place, such as imported wood and corrugated iron, are unhealthy to live in, poorly insulated and unaffordable in a country where 44 percent of people live on less than $1.90 a day and the majority are subsistence farmers.

Ancient Architecture Updated to Create Affordable Homes

But strides have been made in tackling this crisis by the multi-award winning Nubian Vault Association (AVN) under its multifaceted A Roof, A Skill, A Market program. AVN was founded in 2000 by Seri Youlou, a farmer and native of Sahel, and French mason Thomas Grainer.

The first part of the program refers to the building of nubian vaults, an architectural style developed 3,500 years ago in Egypt, that utilize locally produced adobe bricks and are much more affordable, ecological and durable. Not only are they are 50-60 percent cheaper than comparable concrete structures, but nubian vaults are expected to last 50 years or longer as opposed to the seven to 10-year lifespan of houses built out of concrete and corrugated iron roofing.

The influx of this new infrastructure in Burkina Faso is especially beneficial because it continually generates a multitude of new jobs. Cohorts of locals gain new skills as they are trained as masons to build these homes. As the majority of these builders in Sahel are otherwise seasonal farmers with little income security, this opportunity is crucial in providing additional revenue.

Mason Training Diversifies Economic Opportunities for Farmers

The benefits received are not solely monetary. Two to three-day conferences are held at the start and end of each construction season that all AVN masons are welcome to attend. They function as networking events where masons can make contacts and share experiences as well as extended educational spaces with workshops on how to run a small business and be a successful entrepreneur.

This additional training is especially important because of AVN’s ultimate goal of creating autonomous local markets that are not dependent on external cash flow in order to perpetuate this model’s long-term sustainability. After picking a project site, AVN recruits an individual as an ambassador to find new customers within a 100km radius of the project. New customers are then connected with masons who are paid directly by the client.

The builders themselves can also find new patrons, which as of 2013 made up 35 percent of the new client base. This indirect facilitation role fostered by AVN is both important in creating community empowerment and independence. Grainer commented: “Our work expands on the famous saying: we teach a man to fish; we teach him how to mend the nets; we teach him how to sell the fish.”

The Growth of Infrastructure in Burkina Faso and the Sahel

This success is not just limited to the market and infrastructure in Burkina Faso, but has expanded to other African communities as well. More than 2,000 homes and commercial/community buildings have been built as part of the program, which have benefited roughly 25,000 people and reduced 65,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions across Burkina Faso, Mali, Benin, Senegal and Ghana.

When projects expand into new territories, established masons from one country sometimes travel to another to train new apprentices. This strengthens ties across communities and has created a pan-African community of roughly 732 masons to date that has generated a total of $2.6 million for local economies.

The tremendous and multifaceted global impact that AVN has had through A Roof, A Skill, A Market program would not have occurred without the original collaboration between Youlou and Grainer. Together, they forged a creative solution that provides affordable and sustainable housing, increased income stability and economic development across entire communities. Their partnership demonstrates the importance of collaborative global development in creating new ways of living together that build a better future for everyone.

– Emily Bender
Photo: Flickr

Girls' Education in Burkina FasoGirls’ education in Burkina Faso has been limited due to gender divisions and much-needed improvements in infrastructure. However, several efforts by aid organizations have worked to improve the access that girls have to education in the country.

The issue is recognized by the government in Burkina Faso well as by aid organizations, and improving girls’ education in Burkina Faso has been a goal of these organizations. Meetings such as the Pan-African Conference on the Education of Girls as early as 1993 as well as the more recent Ten-Year Plan on the Development of Basic Education and the National Policy of Integrated Development of Children, which outlined a plan for 70 percent enrollment by 2015, have been specifically designed to address issues of education in the country over the last two decades.

Statistical Improvements in Girls’ Education in Burkina Faso

The improvements in education from aid and organizational efforts are reflected in statistical improvements. A 2011 report by the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI) explained that in 2010, “the boy-to-girl student ratio at primary school level stood at 0.94, up from 0.7 in 2000.” However, a UNICEF report indicates that the larger picture statistics still indicate improvements are needed. From 2008 to 2012, in a longer analysis of net participation, the female net enrollment ratio stood at only 50 percent.

The meetings and efforts about the education system as well as girls’ access to education in Burkina Faso have helped the country make significant progress in improving its educational system. According to UNESCO, the Pan-African Conference on the Education of Girls “marked another milestone in regional efforts to make education for all a reality in terms of quality, access and management.”

Gender Roles Still an Obstacle

Girls in Burkina Faso face gender expectations that make access to education extremely difficult. UNICEF cites gender disparity as well as educational infrastructure issues to be the primary reasons why girls do not receive equal educational opportunities.

According to UNICEF, “The education system is characterized by geographical disparities both in terms of enrollment rate and in infrastructure coverage. There are also disparities related to gender – 65.7 percent of boys attend school against 54.5 percent of girls.”

However, social and gender roles are also being addressed in a similar fashion. Meetings, conferences and aid are assisting the country in decreasing the importance of gender roles for girls and women. According to UNGEI, the Burkina Faso government has increased its efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goal of eliminating gender disparity in primary and secondary education.

As aid organizations continue to improve both the education system overall as well as girls’ education in Burkina Faso, they will be investing in children who will make important decisions. Both women and men, when provided the best education available, will be able to make informed decisions about education for generations to come.

As the government improves access to girls’ education in Burkina Faso and works to reduce traditional gender roles, women will be provided with more opportunities to learn and as well as the opportunities to have more autonomy over their lives as well.

– Gabriella Evans
Photo: Flickr