Burkina Faso is a former French colony in the Sahel region of Africa. Burkina Faso has an estimated population of 21 million people. The country shares borders with five francophone-speaking countries — Mali to the northwest, Niger to the northeast, Benin to the southeast, Ivory Coast to the southwest and Togo to the south. Here is some information about the impact of COVID-19 on Burkina Faso.
About the Situation in Burkina Faso
Burkina Faso is an agrarian society. In fact, more than 80% of the nation’s households depend on income from agricultural products. Cotton is one of the major exports and sources of revenue for the country. The country is endowed with natural resources including gold, limestone, marble and salt. Burkina Faso’s gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 1.9% from $16 billion in 2019 to $17.9 billion in 2020.
Burkina Faso has experienced political unrest in the past decades. The incessant regime changes among government officials have led to leadership crises that have contributed significantly to the poor economic and security challenges that Burkinabe people experience. Regional alliances of the Economic Community of West Africa States and the African Union suspended the country due to political instability. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened living conditions in Burkina Faso, severely affecting the nearly 40% who live below the poverty line. Inflation has risen by 3.2% in 2020, which has driven up food prices.
In 2020, due to rising cases of COVID-19, Burkina Faso closed its air, land and sea borders to control the spread of infection. Border closure restrictions occurred in response to the country’s weak health infrastructure and resources stretched thin and overwhelmed by the pandemic. While the interventions showed efficacy in limiting the spread of coronavirus, the social and economic impact of restrictions takes a toll on Burkina Faso. By February 22, 2022, Burkina Faso noted more than 20,751 confirmed cases and 375 deaths and the nation administered more than 2.3 million vaccines.
At the height of the pandemic, some of the lockdown restrictions, among which were the closure of markets, schools, tourist centers and other places of economic activity in the country, were effective against COVID-19’s spread but negatively impacted the workforce. The restrictions affected production, resulting in loss of employment, supply shocks and a decrease in economic growth.
International border closures and supply chain disruption led to a sharp decrease in economic activity for the country as Burkina Faso could not export most of its products. These factors significantly affected trade in Burkina Faso, leading to shocks in household income and plunging families into poverty.
The country is among the top four countries that depend heavily on diaspora earnings. The effect of COVID-19 globally has affected foreign remittances from abroad to families back home. Burkina Faso’s earnings have reduced by 10% and these have affected vulnerable households whose mainstay income depends on these remittances. These diaspora remittances have become insufficient due to rising food prices from a 3.2% increase in inflation.
The combined impact of the pandemic, coupled with security unrest, has resulted in more than 1.4 million Burkinabe citizens facing internal displacement. Civil unrest and the climatic drought challenges the country faces worsen food insecurity. The humanitarian crisis, exacerbated by COVID-19, has reached alarming levels. Estimates from the World Food Programme (WFP) determine that about 2.1 million people are in need of food in Burkina Faso.
Alleviating the Impact of COVID-19 on Burkina Faso
The global impact of the pandemic has been far-reaching. The WFP has continued to play a leading role in fighting global hunger. The organization deployed resources to mitigate some of the challenges in Burkina Faso by providing school feeding programs to support the education of children. Internally displaced Burkinabe receive support with a monthly food ratio, equivalent to $8 per person. About 700,000 of the population have benefited from the food and cash assistance program of the WFP, but more resources are necessary to abate hunger and poverty and stabilize conflict in the region.
– Sylvia Eimieho