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