The influx of over 32,000 Malian refugees has made an already fragile situation in Burkina Faso worse. Their arrival has put pressure on arid regions, where access to water and food is always difficult.
OUAGADOUGOU - At the end of March, 12,200 refugees received a two-week ration in Oudalan, Mentao and Damba districts. At the refugee site in Ouagadougou, though some of the refugees earn a modest amount through making handicrafts that they sell in town, the majority rely exclusively on WFP for their food.
“What affects us the most is boredom and idleness. We gave up studies and friends in our hometowns and have no perspective of a future in this camp. We have skills and we know languages but now we are stuck here,” said Ismaël, a 19-year old law student.
“Besides, it saddens us to see our parents’ savings shrinking day by day, and along with it, seeing them lose pride and hope. In spite of our frustration, we are grateful for Burkina´s welcome and the help and food assistance we have received.”
The international community is responding to the crisis in Burkina Faso, and is also undertaking field visits facilitated by WFP. In March, WFP’s sub-office in Dori received visits from Danish and Luxembourg officials.
“Many refugees had traveled for weeks by foot or on donkeys to flee the conflict in their country. They have now arrived in a drought-affected area already threatened by lack of food and water,” said Christian Friis Bach, Danish Minister of Development Cooperation.
“This is why I had to discuss with President Compaoré about an African-led solution to the delicate situation the whole region is facing. If no solution is found, the number of Malian refugees will increase drastically.”
In early March, the Burkina government officially declared that the country was facing a critical food and nutrition crisis and appealed for assistance from the humanitarian community. The recent drought last year resulted in failed harvests. In addition, food prices rose dramatically – the prices of maize, millet and sorghum are all 30% higher than they were at this time last year.
WFP is not only responding to the nutrition needs of the refugees but also to the needs of their host communities. In addition, WFP is providing support to other vulnerable populations and establishing development programmes for rural communities. So far in 2012, WFP has reached more than 400,000 people, mainly children and pregnant and nursing mothers through nutrition support.
However, the refugee influx has put pressure on WFP’s food stocks and challenges the long-term nutritional benefit of the implemented programs. The continued support of donors is needed to ensure that WFP effectively responds to this complex crisis.