One year after the Sahel Crisis, WFP Executive Director visits Burkina Faso
Upon invitation by President Blaise Compaoré, WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin visited Burkina Faso from 13 to 15 March 2013. The visit came one year after the Sahel food and nutrition crisis and the influx of Malian refugees, during which WFP reached some 1.5 million people with emergency food assistance.
Ouagadougou - Though this year’s harvest is much improved compared to last year’s, the food security situation remains fragile in Burkina Faso.
“The Sahel is facing a double threat: instability, caused by a conflict that has sent refugees across its borders and chronic hunger, caused by cycles of drought and poor harvests. Last year the international community helped avert a crisis in the Sahel, but our work is not over,” Ertharin Cousin said during her visit, the first by a WFP Executive Director since 1998.
The visit was an opportunity for Cousin to meet the President once again, Ministers, the donor and humanitarian community as well as the country office in Ouagadougou on the first day.
The following day, the ED traveled to the Sahel Region of Burkina Faso, accompanied by WFP’s Burkina Faso Country Director, the West Africa Regional Director, the Minister of Education, several UN Agency Representatives, and the Coordinator of the National Refugee Council.
As well as having some of the highest malnutrition and food insecurity rates in the country, the Sahel Region also hosts 95 percent of the Malian refugees in Burkina Faso.
First, Cousin and the delegation visited the Mentao refugee site, the largest site in Burkina Faso, where a monthly food distribution was taking place. Next, the delegation visited a local Burkinabé school, where refugee children are hosted and receive two meals per day through WFP’s school feeding programme and then, a Cash for Assets activity, focusing on refugee host communities and through which WFP hopes to rehabilitate 125 hectares of soil with the half-moon technique, which traps humidity in the soil, making it more arable.
“It is not a matter of ‘if’ there will be a drought, but ‘when’. If we continue to follow through with what we started last year, we can truly build resilience in the Sahel,” said Cousin referring to such programmes.
Then, Cousin visited a health centre, where WFP carries out moderate acute malnutrition activities for children under 5 years old and pregnant and nursing women. At all sites, Cousin had the opportunity to talk directly with beneficiaries, hearing their concerns.
On the way to catch her plane to Mali from the town of Ouahigouya in the North Region, the ED visited the local NGO AMMIE, with whom WFP implemented a gender advocacy initiative in 2012 and carries out food assistance for people living with HIV as well as AIDS orphans.
In 2013, WFP urgently needs US$ 36 million for its activities in Burkina Faso.