Burkina Faso

Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs & Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, a.i. Mr. Ramesh Rajasingham, Remarks to the press on Burkina Faso (4 March 2021)

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Thank you for joining this briefing and for your interest in Burkina Faso.

I recently visited the country and I left with two urgent messages for the international community:
Firstly, and these are imperatives, we need to scale up the life-saving response now to meet the growing humanitarian needs in many parts of the country. We have increasing vulnerability and more displacement that we need to address.

And secondly, we must act with credible and sustainable solutions to prevent this from becoming a protracted crisis with no end point in sight, similar to all the other protracted crises which in some cases have gone on for generations.
If we do not do both, people will get stuck in a vicious cycle of conflict, climatic shocks and humanitarian need compounded by the COVID-19 crisis. This will inevitably lead to more food shortages, more instability and more displacement.

Allow me to begin with some of my impressions from the visit to Burkina Faso.

One million people have been driven from their homes by armed groups in just one year. It is the world’s fastest-growing displacement crisis.

Host communities have generously welcomed many of the displaced and given them a measure of protection - their primary ask. In some places, displaced people out-number the residents three to one. In one place I visited there were 150,000 displaced persons supported by a community of 50,000.

I met Fatoumata - and she is one of many there - a mother in the northern town of Djibo which until recently was inaccessible because of the presence of armed groups. She has been forced from her home, from her livelihood, by armed men, driving on motorbikes, and is now surviving with the help of humanitarian groups and the local community.

She told me she is enormously grateful for the protection the community provides because that is the best sort of protection that can be afforded to her today. I heard the same message echoed by many displaced women and mothers who are very vulnerable to sexual violence by armed groups.

Fatoumata wants to make a living for herself and her children, something that she would do back at home, growing and selling vegetables on the local market. But she knows that today it is impossible for her to return home as long as this insecurity persists.

The violence and climate change have also drastically reduced food production in Burkina Faso as it has throughout the entire Sahel. One person in 10 is food insecure. Without the humanitarian assistance they currently receive, thousands of families would go hungry.

Nearly a million people have no access to medical care and COVID-19 has only made the situation worse.
Really worrying is that 2,200 schools are closed in these affected areas, depriving more than 300,000 children of education and putting them at risk of exploitation and abuse.

In one of Burkina Faso's most affected regions, Sahel, school attendance has dropped to 25 per cent in two years. This has an enormous impact particularly on girls’ futures because, as we have seen elsewhere as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, girls are the most unlikely to return to school when they do recommence. So all the efforts and all the investments that we and others have made, that governments have made, to afford girls an education will be lost if they can’t return to school.

Humanitarian organizations have scaled up their presence in Burkina Faso and have tripled deliveries since 2019. Last year they assisted more than 2.4 million people across the country.

This year, a record 3.5 million people need aid, a 60 per cent increase compared to January 2020.
While needs continue to grow, the funding outlook for 2021 is not improving sufficiently.

Partners have had to prioritize to ensure assistance for the next six months. WFP has intermittently reduced rations for displaced people since July 2020, due to increasing needs.

Humanitarian organizations need an injection of cash to address these problems.

During my visit I also launched the Humanitarian Response Plan for 2021 together with the Government and the NGO partners.

If the plan is fully funded, we can reach almost 3million of the most vulnerable people. It requires just over $600 million to implement. I urge international donors to maintain their generosity and step up their funding support for Burkina Faso.

But humanitarian aid is not enough, and this goes back to my second point. It may keep Fatoumata and many others alive, but if the drivers of the crisis are not addressed, it can only keep them in a holding pattern, depending on aid which, as we all know, will hugely impact their dignity but also the ability to recover when the opportunity arises.

Sustainable action is needed right now to shore up their resilience and reduce future needs. Humanitarian and development organizations are well placed and ready to do that. They have the capacity, but they need resources.

I visited the city of Kaya where partners such a UNICEF and NGOs have taken innovative steps to support local service networks and infrastructure with more sustainable solutions for the entire community, not just the displaced. We need more support for more of these longer-term projects because they will afford recovery for these communities.

The crisis in Burkina Faso is complex as it is throughout the Sahel. Most importantly, everybody told me this in the field, they need peace to prevent a protracted humanitarian crisis which suffocates the hope and dignity of a very proud people.

Life-saving action and rapid, credible development action must go hand in hand to reduce future needs. That means strengthening basic services, improving infrastructure and education, combating the impact of climate change, and create sustainable livelihood models for future generations.

The recent $700 million envelope from the World Bank’s “Prevention and Resilience Allocation” for Burkina Faso is a good example and very welcome. It will focus on crisis action and resilience at the same time, through flexible funding.

People in Burkina Faso are showing incredible strength in the face of near-impossible challenges and communities desperately need international support to get back on their feet.

Their resilience is strong, but it is eroding.

Thank you. I’ll now take your questions.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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