Posts

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

Agroforestry Can Reduce Global PovertyForests provide food, medicine, fodder and energy for 250 million of the world’s extreme poor. If utilized properly, the method of agroforestry can reduce global poverty. The resources and benefits that forests can provide are often inaccessible to those in poverty due to the private ownership of forests.

Ownership of Forests

Approximately 77% of the world’s forests are owned and administered by governments that do not recognize the claims of indigenous peoples and local communities to the land. Since government priorities do not always align with community needs, the locals who need the forests to survive do not receive the benefits that they should. For example, the timber and ecotourism industries in Africa are skyrocketing but the locals do not share in the profits.

Agroforestry

Agroforestry, the agricultural practice of growing trees and shrubs around crops or pastureland, can ameliorate this problem. Agroforestry builds on existing agricultural land already owned by communities to create new forests not owned by the government, thereby circumventing the ownership problem and guaranteeing that profits remain in the community. Agroforestry systems are smaller in scale than typical forests but they still deliver many of the same positive results: they diversify production, restore soil fertility and increase biodiversity.

The benefits of agroforestry extend beyond environmental issues. Agroforestry can reduce global poverty by increasing food resources and security, improving nutrition and increasing profits for farmers.

3 Countries Using Agroforestry

  1. Bolivia uses agroforestry to reduce food insecurity. Bolivia is one of the biggest producers of organic cacao, which despite being edible, is not a major food crop. Cacao is grown mostly wild or in monocultures, though there is a growing shift to agroforestry systems where cacao trees are intercropped with shade trees and other by-crops like bananas and avocados. Over 75% of Bolivian households lack regular access to basic foods. Thanks to agroforestry, 40% of the population who depend on agriculture for their livelihoods can both produce more food and earn more money to buy what they do not grow. The Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL) found that the return on labor was double for agroforestry systems compared to monocultures even though the cacao yields were 40% higher in the monocultures. The revenue difference came from the sale of the by-crops, which offset the lower cacao yield. The by-crops helped farmers earn a profit but also represented a food source for the communities.

  2. Burkina Faso uses agroforestry as a means of women’s empowerment. The U.N. Development Program estimates that an average of three million African women work directly or indirectly with shea butter. Women have historically played an important role in the extraction of shea butter but they have not always been compensated for their work, even as the industry and profits grew. Agroforestry allows for more community involvement in farming, which in turn opens up opportunities for women. NGOs like CECI and WUSC help to train women in shea harvesting as part of the Uniterra project, which aims to get women involved in entrepreneurial ventures such as developing their own shea butter businesses for international exports. As a result of agroforestry, more women are empowered to take themselves out of poverty.

  3. India is a global leader in agroforestry policy. India was the first country to create a national agroforestry policy in 2014 despite existing policies that were unfavorable to agriculture, weak markets and a lack of institutional finance. The country set the ambitious goal of increasing national tree cover to 33% as a way to make agriculture more sustainable while optimizing its productivity. Agroforestry is currently in use on 13.5 million hectares in India but the government hopes to expand it to increase benefits like reducing poverty and malnutrition by tripling crop yields. Already, agroforestry provides 65% of the country’s timber and almost half of its fuelwood. Timber production on tree farms generates 450 employment days per hectare per year, which can reduce rural unemployment, and in turn, rural poverty.

The Potential of Agroforestry in Poverty Reduction

Many other rural communities in Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia have relied on agroforestry throughout history, with and without government backing. As a whole, agroforestry is underused in the fight against global poverty. Nations with large agricultural sectors need to adopt agroforestry policies and promote the training needed to help farmers implement agroforestry on a large scale. These agroforestry efforts have the potential to significantly contribute to global poverty reduction.

– Brooklyn Quallen
Photo: Flickr

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

Burkina Faso and the Situation

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

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

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

UNHCR and Doctors Without Borders

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

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

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

– Kyle Dunphey
Photo: Flickr


Burkina Faso is a country situated in Western Africa, and its capital is Ouagadougou. Burkina Faso – a former French Colony — is surrounded by the countries of Mali, Niger, Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana and Togo, making it a land-locked country. Being a part of Sub Saharan region, the climate is predominantly hot and semi-dry with an average annual rainfall of 25 cm to 115 cm. The country is rich in mineral resources like gold, manganese, zinc, phosphate, silver and diamond with gold being the major export commodity.

In spite of the country’s natural resources, about 45 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. Due to drought, deforestation and improper agriculture, food insecurity is a major problem in this area. Lack of high-quality drinking water also contributes to diseases like malaria, dengue, and yellow fever prevalent in the population.

HIV/AIDS poses a huge threat to the population of Burkina Faso. As a result of food insecurity and disease outbreak, education doesn’t find a place among the population.

Humanitarian Aid to Burkina Faso 

The good news is various Foreign Aid Organizations like Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), UNICEF and United States Agency for International Development (USAID) are working relentlessly to address the problems faced by the country by offering humanitarian aid to Burkina Faso.

Millennium Challenge Corporation

In its five-year compact from 2008 to 2013, the MCC along with the government of Burkina Faso invested in four different projects related to agriculture, land tenure, roads and girls’ education. The target of these projects was to reduce poverty, increase economic growth and educate the female population.

The above projects helped in irrigating more agricultural land as well as training farmers in growing more crops and raising better livestock. Legal protection has been provided to the farmers in securing their farmland. Roads were constructed in the rural region which helped in both reducing travel time and vehicle maintenance cost — developments that thus boosted the overall economic growth throughout the region.

BRIGHT II Project

The BRIGHT II Project of MCC (related to girl’s education) directed its efforts towards building schools, providing proper facilities for female education and increasing access to school education. The result is that the completion rate of primary school students increased from 21 percent in 2008 to more than 57 percent in 2012. In this regard, humanitarian aid to Burkina Faso is working its way up towards success.

USAID provided human rights assistance to the government of Burkina Faso by helping to maintain a stable democratic governance. Under its support, the country held its first free and open democratic elections in November 2015, followed then by the municipal election in May 2016.

USAID Resilience Program

The Resilience Program of USAID focuses on increasing agricultural productivity and long term food security. It also targets improving the health conditions of the women and children whose mortality rate is higher and thus are more vulnerable to various diseases.

In collaboration with the World Food Program, the organization also provided food assistance to 30,000 Malian population who continued to take refuge in Burkina Faso as of December 2016.

UNICEF

Unsafe water is a leading cause of death in Burkina Faso. UNICEF works with the government in manually drilling water points in various remote areas so that mass populations can get access to safe water and hygienic sanitation. In the process, they are also providing employment to the common people by training them in locally produced and easily available tools.

Due to the contribution of humanitarian aid to Burkina Faso, the country has progressed in political rights, rule of law and information freedom. Despite its poverty, illiteracy and disease outbreak, Burkina Faso is slowly moving forward as a stable democratic country.

– Mahua Mitra

Photo: Flickr

 Burkina Faso

The government has made significant improvements to the infrastructure in Burkina Faso, particularly in the water sanitation and supply sector. The government is working hard to ensure that there is better access to safe drinking water, piped water into homes and improved health for the people living in the West African nation.

In past years, people in Burkina Faso went without sustainable water, even though the country is near the Volta River Basin and Niger River Delta. In fact, both of these rivers have proven to be unreliable to Burkina Faso, as they begin to dry out during certain seasons. In addition to the seasonal rivers, the country experiences common droughts throughout the year. With these geographic disadvantages, water became scarce for over 18 million citizens of the country, and water sanitation became an issue.

Fortunately, the infrastructure in Burkina Faso has improved drastically from the past. Over a span of twelve years, drinking water sustainability increased from 54 percent to 90 percent. For the Burkinabé living there, this improvement in drinking water sustainability means that the chances of having better living conditions and health are much higher.

The urban areas of Burkina Faso seem to be improving because of the technological resources that are being made available to the people living there. Yet, the same cannot be said for those who live in the poor rural areas of the country. More than half of the rural population still lives without usable water.

One of the main reasons why the infrastructure in Burkina Faso has issues with water sanitation and supply is because there is a lack of information provided to people living in rural areas. According to UNICEF, 50 percent of Burkinabé still practice open defecation, as they are not aware of the dangers of poor hygiene and see this practice as an everyday norm.

Another issue the country is having with improving water sanitation in rural areas is being able to increase access to technology while saving on funds. Without the proper budget, Burkina Faso must take into consideration the methods in which they plan to continue to help their citizens get better access to water supply and sanitation. This has changed with the assistance of the World Bank, which has mobilized $226 million over the past 20 years for Burkina Faso’s sanitation development. More than 440,000 people, including those in rural areas, have gained access to better water supply and sanitation, thus improving living conditions.

The people of Burkina Faso can hold their heads high knowing that their government is working hard with organizations such as the World Bank, UNICEF, and Wateraid to ensure that conditions continually improve over the next couple of years.

– Seriah Sargenton

Photo: Flickr

Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso is seeing an uptick in development with projects planned in numerous sectors across the country. Recognized as one of West Africa’s least developed nations, Burkina Faso has been plagued in recent years by droughts and military coups.

Primarily known as a hub for gold reserves, Burkina Faso has become attractive to investment in recent years by private sector companies contributing to the enhanced forms of solar power, cotton and other agro-economic development poles. The investment announced in recent weeks comes from the African Development Bank (AfDB), which has decided to invest approximately $910 million in Burkina Faso over the next five years.

The project, targeted towards the power and agricultural sectors, has been praised by numerous high-level politicians, who claim that such an investment would reap large profits and be beneficial towards the Country Strategy Document (DSP).

The Burkinabe government elaborated on the collaboration between both parties by stating that such an agreement is designed to “reduce the large disparity between urban and rural regions in relation to the power sector, through improving electrical appliances, as well as supporting the agricultural sector in order to reduce poverty in rural areas”.

Other models of development have taken different forms in terms of education outreach in order to target children who lack the appropriate resources in school. The company, Longhorn Publishers, which is promoting its digital publications across the continent, is mainly targeting primary school computerization programs.

Such investments are critical for the progression in the economic situation in Burkina Faso. The approach towards refinement in both the agricultural and power sectors aims at reducing inequalities. With the increasing engagement in both the public and private sectors, the government will also look towards community-based self-help programs that will be working towards reducing global poverty.

Alexandre Dumouza

Photo: Flickr

Common Diseases in Burkina FasoThe small landlocked nation of Burkina Faso, in West Africa, is one of the poorest nations in both the continent and the globe. The United Nations consistently names it the third poorest country in the world. Burkina Faso has few natural resources, and thus relies primarily on the export of its two cash crops: cotton and gold. The nation’s industrial base is very weak, and almost 90 percent of the population works in subsistence farming.The weakness of the economy translates to a feeble

The weakness of the economy translates to a feeble healthcare system. There are an estimated 0.05 physicians per 1,000 people, along with high poverty rates and malnutrition: one in four children under five is underweight. This combination of factors leaves the nation’s population extremely vulnerable and at a very high risk of contracting and spreading infectious diseases. This is especially evidenced by the life expectancy in the nation — 59 years— which is 12 years below the world average of 71. Following is a list of five of the most common diseases in Burkina Faso:

  1. Lower Respiratory Diseases
    Lower Respiratory Diseases, such as pneumonia and bronchitis, are the group of most common diseases in Burkina Faso. They are by far the leading cause of death in the country, accounting for 14 percent of all deaths. Pulmonary Tuberculosis, although receding throughout recent years, is also a common respiratory infection in the nation, which is especially lethal to HIV-positive patients.
  2. Malaria
    Malaria is an extremely infectious disease transmitted from person to person by female mosquitoes. It is a chronic issue in sub-Saharan Africa; 90 percent of all malaria-related deaths occur in children of the region. In Burkina Faso it is one of the top causes of death, accounting for 10 percent of all fatalities.
  3. Diarrheal Disease
    Due to a lack of proper infrastructure and a high prevalence of hunger and malnutrition, Burkina Faso’s population is especially prone to food and waterborne diseases. Consequently, bacterial and protozoal diarrhea is a major concern and causes up to 6 percent of all deaths in the nation.
  4. Meningitis
    Meningitis is the inflammation of the membranes of the spinal cord and the brain. It is typically caused by viral infections and some of its forms can be prevented by vaccination. Although the disease still accounts for 4 percent of all deaths, a vaccination drive aided by international organizations, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has vaccinated close to 12 million people against meningitis in the country.
  5. HIV/AIDS
    Like most of sub-Saharan Africa, one of the most common diseases in Burkina Faso is HIV/AIDS. Although the rate of infection and fatality has been decreasing steadily since 2000, the immunodeficiency virus infection, and AIDS which develops from it, still accounts for 3 percent of deaths in Burkina Faso.

Sub-Saharan Africa is already a region of the world especially prone to high poverty, hunger, and disease. Burkina Faso, amongst nations of the area, is one of the worst affected: it has an especially weak economy and a lack of natural resources. If there is a country that evinces the need for aid and help from the international community, Burkina Faso is it.

Alan Garcia-Ramos

Photo: Flickr

Top Diseases in Burkina Faso
The major diseases in Burkina Faso are also some of the largest killers in the world. They are incredibly dangerous, common throughout the country, and may be separated into categories as follows: food or waterborne diseases; vector-borne diseases; water contact diseases; aerosolized dust or soil contact diseases; respiratory disease and animal contact diseases. Below are the most common diseases in Burkina Faso.

Hepatitis A
This is a form of viral hepatitis. It is transmitted by food and causes jaundice and fever. Most who die from it are children aged one to four. Although the death rate from hepatitis A is Burkina Faso is lower than any other country in Western sub-Saharan Africa, it is their most dangerous food and waterborne disease.

Hepatitis E
The deadliness of this disease in Burkina Faso is most common at age 80. At this age, hepatitis E kills 4.3 out of 100,000 people. The virus targets the liver and is most commonly transmitted through the fecal-oral route.

Typhoid Fever
This is another of many diseases in Burkina Faso commonly spread through fecal-oral routes. Those infected experience high fevers and, if left untreated, mortality rates can reach 20 percent of the infected population. The annual mortality rate for typhoid fever in Burkina Faso has decreased 5 percent since 1990. It is like hepatitis A in that it mostly kills young children aged one to four.

Malaria
Malaria affects more people in Burkina Faso than in other countries of Western sub-Saharan Africa, although the mortality rate dropped 26 percent between 1990 and 2013. That decline is significant, but the death rate from Malaria decreased 49 percent in Sierra Leone and 51 percent in Gambia over the same period.

Dengue Fever
This disease is commonly spread through mosquitoes. Dengue fever is less common than it used to be, with a 52 percent decrease since 1990. It will occasionally cause shock and hemorrhage, leading to death in 5 percent of cases. While one of the less common diseases in Burkina Faso, it is still prevalent.

This is only the beginning of the list for diseases in Burkina Faso. While the country is fighting for better and stronger health care and prevention systems for these diseases, its citizens continue to die of entirely preventable causes. Burkina Faso is on its way to saving a lot of lives with their improvements in health care system, and help from countries like the United States can only help them from here.

Rilee Pickle

Photo: Flickr


Tens of thousands of Malians have made their way to Algeria, Togo, Niger, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Mauritania and Burkina Faso to avoid oppression from armed conflicts between the Malian army, members of the Tuareg movement and other regional factions. In January 2012, a military coup exacerbated this exodus. Ever since this coup, violence in Mali has continued despite the Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation that was signed in June 2015. This has hampered the return of displaced and stateless Malians who are spread across the continent. Prejudice, persecution and ethnic stigmatization continue to hinder the development of peace in the region.

10 Facts About Refugees in Burkina Faso

  1. As of March 2017, there were 32,972 individual refugees and 8,787 families residing in the country, according to government statistics and sources from The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Comparatively, in late December 2014, 32,097 refugees were in the country.
  2. Most refugees in Burkina Faso are women (51.6 percent), individuals between 18-59 years of age (40.5 percent) and children between the ages of 5 and 11 (26.28 percent).
  3. With respect to ethnicity, most refugees in Burkina Faso are Tuareg (75 percent). Over the last year, more than 2,000 refugees from northern Mali were registered. General regional insecurity, gender-based violence and food shortages are largely to blame.
  4. Fifty-seven percent of refugees do not have an occupation (8,801 males and 10,098 females). Most men are breeders (11.49 percent or 3,620) and most women are cleaners (12.17 percent or 3,964). In the capital, most refugee artisans, such as leather workers and blacksmiths, earn income from tourists and municipal needs. UNHCR provides financial assistance to artisans who organize themselves into groups.
  5. Refugees in Burkina Faso reside in two primary camps: Mentao and Goudoubou. As of March 31, 2017, Mentao holds 12,658 individuals and 3,534 families. Comparatively, Goudoubou has 10,131 refugees and 2,863 families.

  1. Every refugee within the Mentao and Goudoubou encampments has access to healthcare.
  2. A large percentage of refugees in Burkina Faso (80.33 percent) have a primary education – more than any other educational level. Roughly 46 percent of refugees are students (1,820 males and 1,300 females).
  3. According to the UNHCR April 2017 West Africa Funding Update, Burkina Faso has only received 16 percent of its needed funds – there is a gap of $17.8 million. Additionally, only 19 percent of the funding needed to support all West African refugees has been received. A total of $231.7 million is still needed.
  4. Based on March 2017 figures, a total of 776 individual refugees and 251 families live in the city of Bobo-Dioulasso, while in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, 607 refugees (mostly men) and 228 families have taken up residence. What distinguishes urban refugees from those in rural settings or encampments? The answer is twofold. Firstly, their skills are said to be more developed than those in traditional camps. Secondly, they have greater access to employment opportunities because of those skills. Together, these elements mean urban refugees have the means to support themselves, which reduces the need for humanitarian aid.
  5. In Burkina Faso, the National Commission for Refugees (CONAREF) and UNHCR provide financial, logistical and healthcare assistance to refugees and asylum-seekers (in addition to many other NGOs and government agencies). However, if refugees wish to return home, they can waive the protection and health care provided by these entities.

At present, the UNHCR plans to continue its registration of refugees in Burkina Faso. This includes identity cards, biometric CTVs and refugee certificates. This should enable the government to improve its data collection activities on refugees, stateless persons and those at risk of statelessness. Statistical accuracy will enable UNHCR, government agencies and non-governmental organizations to improve their quality of humanitarian assistance in the region.

JG Federman

Photo: Flickr

Burkina Faso_Merriage
In Burkina Faso, forced marriage is a frequent occurrence, especially for girls of a very young age. Over 52 percent of women in the country are married before the age of 18 and 10 percent are married before the age of 15. Forced marriage often puts girls in jeopardy of increasing health resources and losing access to education.

Child marriage rates vary throughout the country but can be as high as 86 percent in some regions. The practice is connected to both poverty and tradition. There are also tangible links to lack of education, with girls being more at risk for child marriage if they are less educated.

Forced marriage in Burkina Faso is technically illegal, but the law is rarely enforced. It does not prevent traditional or religious marriages, which creates a loophole in the law, causing many girls to be forced into marriage. The law also defines a lower legal marriage age for girls than boys. Girls can legally marry at age 17 and boys at age 20. Many girls are married before age 17, despite the current laws in place to prevent the practice.

Girls as young as 11 can be forced into marriage. This equates to a huge age difference between a young girl and her male spouse. The gap can vary from 30 to 50 years. In many cases, these men are engaging in polygamy and already have one or more wives.

Forced marriage is usually motivated by economic or social incentives. Sometimes marriage is promised at birth or during early childhood, often including a dowry from the husband’s family that consists of money or land.

Risks Associated with Forced Marriage

There are numerous health risks for young girls that are forced into marriage. Women are expected to bear children at the husband’s discretion, which can be extremely unsafe at such a young age. Complications during pregnancy may cause injury or even death to the young mother. Physical and sexual violence is also common among forced marriages.

Marrying early endangers girls’ futures as well. Wives are expected to perform all household chores and are often denied access to education or economic opportunity. The level of female access to education in Burkina Faso is already low, at only 64.2 percent, but girls that are forced into marriage are more likely to give up school.

Joint Efforts Toward Prevention

Burkina Faso created a “National Strategy to End Child Marriage” in 2015. The goal of the project is to reduce the occurrence of child marriage by 2025. The strategy is supported by U.N. agencies as well as political and religious leaders throughout the country. Objectives include preventing child marriage and supporting victims of child marriage.

This is a step in the right direction, but the country still has a long way to go to comply with international human rights standards.

Lindsay Harris

Photo: Flickr