WFP’s Executive Director Ertharin Cousin was invited to Burkina Faso by the President Blaise Compaoré whom she met in October 2012 at the Forum on International Cooperation in Milan, Italy. On his invitation, she spent two days in the country, from the 13 to 15 March. The first day she spent in the capital Ouagadougou, meeting with Ministers, the donor and humanitarian community and the WFP Burkina Faso country office. The second day was an opportunity to go to the field and see WFP operations.
Here the ED addresses the media, following her meeting with the President, to her right stands WFP Burkina Faso Country Director Angelline Rudakubana and on her right stands WFP Regional Director for West Africa Thomas Yanga, who accompanied her throughout her visit in Burkina Faso.
On 14 March, the ED visited the WFP Burkina Faso Country Office, where she was warmly received. The last visit by an executive director was in 1998, when the building was inaugurated as the WFP Regional Office for West Africa, which is now in Dakar, Senegal.
On the following day, March 15, the ED traveled to the Sahel Region of Burkina Faso. As well as having some of the highest malnutrition and food insecurity rates in the country, the region also hosts 95 percent of the Malian refugees in Burkina Faso. Here the ED listens to a briefing on arrival at the Mentao refugee site, the largest in the country.
A food distribution was taking place during the ED’s visit. Here mothers and children wait with the food that they have received for the month. As of mid-March, according to UNHCR, there are close to 48,000 Malian refugees, mainly from northern Mali.
The ED spent time with women refugees, listening to their concerns. “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,” said the ED.
Part of the visit included a trip a local Burkinabé school, where refugee children are hosted and receive two meals per day through WFP’s school feeding activities, a breakfast of fortified porridge and a lunch of couscous and beans.
In partnership with the local NGO RAW (Regional Council of Unions Sahel), WFP is carrying out soil conservation projects in host communities near refugee sites. It is expected that under this Cash for Assets programme 125 hectares of land will be rehabilitated through the half-moon technique, which traps humidity in the soil, making it more arable. In return for doing work that aims to improve future yields, participants also receive a cash transfer to provide for their families’ food needs.
The visit was an opportunity for the ED to speak to the local and international media about WFP and its operations in Burkina Faso. “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 the ED during her visit.
The ED at the Djao Djao health centre in the Sahel region, where WFP carries out a moderate acute malnutrition (MAM) treatment programme for children under 5 years old as well as pregnant and nursing women . Following her two days in Burkina Faso, the ED flew to Mali, where food and other humanitarian assistance continues to be urgently needed.