A community leader in his tent in Barsalogho camp. Photo: Ingebjørg Kårstad/NRC

Nine things you should know about the humanitarian crisis in Burkina Faso

Roald Høvring|Published 02. Jun 2023
For the first time, Burkina Faso is the world’s most neglected crisis. Increasing violence and displacement have left nearly one in four Burkinabe in need of aid in this deepening and overlooked crisis.

Here are nine things you should know about the crisis in Burkina Faso:

#1: Skyrocketing needs

2022 saw humanitarian needs skyrocket, with 4.9 million people in need of aid by December – a 40 per cent increase from the start of the year. In addition, nearly two million people were displaced from their homes within the country.

#2: Killing of civilians

Since the conflict began five years ago, over 14,000 people have been killed – half of them since January 2022. While many of these deaths are combat-related – part of the intensifying war between security forces and non-state armed groups – civilians are also being killed in increasing numbers. Over 1,400 civilians were killed last year, almost double the 2021 death count.

#3: Severe hunger

The number of people who are severely food-insecure (meaning they lack access to enough nutritious food) increased ninefold between 2018 and 2022. In the city of Djibo, families’ meals consist mostly of wild leaves. More than three million people are expected to go hungry this summer, including a record-high 42,000 people experiencing extreme food insecurity.

#4: Attacks on water points

Attacks on water points by armed groups have deprived up to 1 million people of access to water in the past 16 months. That is twice as many people as received humanitarian assistance to access drinking water last year.

#5: One million children driven out of school

The number of schools closed due to rampant insecurity nearly doubled in 2022. Over 6,100 are currently out-of-service, amounting to 1 in 4 schools across the country. Burkina Faso is now home to almost half of all closed schools in the Central and West Africa region.

#6: Lack of money

Even though the funding required to address humanitarian needs in Burkina Faso accounted for a meagre 1.5 per cent of the total global humanitarian appeal last year, the amount received fell short of meeting even half of the country’s needs. Just 42 per cent of the funding needed was delivered in 2022: USD 339m out of the USD 805m requested.

#7: Limited humanitarian access

The number of towns and villages under blockade by non-state armed groups surged from five to 23 in 2022, leaving over 800,000 people cut off from the rest of the country. The absence of “humanitarian corridors” to access these populations by land meant aid organisations were reliant on UN helicopters to reach them.

#8: Political instability

Political instability added another layer to the crisis, with two military takeovers eight months apart. The first in January deposed the democratically elected president, while the second pitted two military sides against each other. While both coups occurred quickly and with a low level of violence, principled humanitarian action was further strained.

#9: Neglected by media

Burkina Faso received substantially less international media coverage for the entire year of 2021 than Ukraine did every single day for the first three months of the conflict. In 2022, media coverage remained limited and primarily focused on political upheavals and high-profile attacks. The scale of the humanitarian crisis too often remained a side note, due in part to near-impossible access for journalists to conflict and displacement areas.