The landlocked West African nation of Burkina Faso has rapidly become one of the world’s worst humanitarian situations in the past two years as food insecurity, displacement and internal conflict have created a dangerous storm of issues for locals, in particular, Burkina Faso’s poor.
The country’s issues became worse after January 2022, when army officers staged a coup against the former Prime Minister, who was replaced by the army’s captain, leading to blockades on main roads leading into the country, stopping foreign aid and minimizing the country’s trading.
The effects of these factors are slowly being reversed by organizations such as the World Bank, who have been working tirelessly to create jobs for the nation’s residents and provide immediate food support, as well as long-term solutions.
In 2018, there were less than 50,000 internally displaced people in the country, and at the end of 2022, that number rose to 1.9 million, showing the devastating impact of the country’s conflict.
As military groups have blockaded cities, planted explosives on roads and taken down critical infrastructure such as bridges and water points, people have been stuck in the landlocked nation for over a year, with minimal food and supplies. With the country locked up by army blockades, farmers have not been able to move freely, leaving fields abandoned and food production to plummet.
But farmers are not the only ones left without jobs, as delivery drivers bringing goods into the country have also halted, meaning no goods are on store shelves except cleaning products.
These factors have collectively led to the number of people facing acute food insecurity multiplying nine-fold, as there is now an estimated 2.6 million food-insecure people.
A report by the Norwegian Refugee Council has also predicted that the number of people facing acute, catastrophic levels of food insecurity will keep rising as it expects a 42% increase in food insecure people by August.
Due to the army blockades, the last considerable shipment of food came in September, when 100 tonnes of cereal reached the town of Djibo, feeding an estimated 6,700 families. Only a small portion of those who need immediate assistance.
The Norwegian report showed that the situation reached such dire levels in 2022, that almost 85% of families’ meals consisted of wild leaves.
Immediate humanitarian aid continues to drop in the country’s air bridge, but as that is the only method of support reaching the country, the assistance provided is not enough for all of Burkina Faso’s poor.
All of the above events struck the West African nation terribly. The global assessment by the Norwegian Refugee Council showed that by the end of 2022, there were 1.9 million people in need of aid, a 40% increase from the start of the year. Despite the increase in need, the funding requested by humanitarian organizations was only 42% filled by global NGOs, leaving many to survive without immediate aid.
But immediate aid isn’t the only way to help the poverty-stricken nation.
Organizations such as the World Bank have been carrying out job-creating initiatives such as their Forest Investment Program, which collected a total investment of $27 million, from the World Bank, the Climate Investment Funds and the European Union.
The initiative has led to over 400,000 hectares of currently unused farmland falling under sustainable management. The planting of trees and preparation of the land will benefit more than 500,000 people, creating 5,000 jobs in 32 communes targeted for the project.
In line with these investments, nearly 6,000 households have received improved stoves in an attempt to cut down on the use of wood for energy and cooking purposes, as well as make it cheaper to use stoves for Burkina Faso’s poor.
Similarly, the World Bank has also begun executing its Regional Integration initiative, building new roads and improving damaged main roads for truck drivers within the country, as well as to the nearest ports in Togo and Ghana.
As the country is landlocked alongside 32% of all African countries, access to these ports is of vital importance for the country to continue their exports and imports not only across Africa, but internationally too. One truck driver affected by these improvements told the World Bank that it used to take more than a week to travel 950 kilometers, but it now only takes two days.
Previous initiatives by the World Bank, which began in 1980, cost the organization $325 million at the time but are now worth more than $14 billion, accounting for 13% of the entire continent’s portfolio.
These long-term types of initiatives show great promise in helping countries like Burkina Faso in the long run, alongside all African countries.
– Sam Kalantzis