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Burkina Faso threatened with famine

Cristina Krippahl
September 10, 2019

As the death toll of jihadist attacks in Burkina Faso climbs, the UN and the Red Cross say nearly 300,000 people have been forced to flee their homes. Half a million people no longer have access to health care.

The Hotel Splendid Hotel in Ouagadougou in flames
Image: Reuters/Reuters TV

The latest attack came on Monday evening, when six policemen died in an ambush in the north of the country. On Sunday, 26 civilians were killed and six wounded in the northern province of Sanmatenga. Since 2015, more than 500 people have been killed in similar attacks. The rise in jihadist violence has been attributed to the spread of Islamist terrorism from neighboring Mali. It is now also metastasizing to the east and the center of the country.

According to a statement by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), around 289,000 people have had to flee their homes and are now living in shelters — triple the number compared to January. 

No access to health care

According to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), "500,000 people have been deprived of health care since January due to jihadist violence." 125 health centers were hit in August, forcing 60 to shut down and leaving 65 only partially able to function. The ICRC added 1.2 million people are threatened with famine and malnutrition.

Referring to the recent spate of attacks, Burkinabe President Roch Marc Christian Kabore warned in a tweet that "these despicable acts will not go unpunished."

In an interview with DW, Foreign Minister Alpha Barry said the country "is making a huge effort" to meet the challenge, including allocating an ever growing part of the budget to defense. But he also called for more coordination in the fight against jihadists. "We are convinced that no country can defeat terrorism and secure its territory by itself. We need more help from our partners," he told DW.

More help needed

Barry complained that Burkina Faso had yet to receive the aid promised by the West to Sahel countries in a conference on the region held in Brussels last year. The minister added that it was urgent that the international community "take concrete steps" after Germany and France announced more help would be sent to the Sahel region during the G7 summit in Biarritz in August. The aim is to reinforce the acting capacity of the Sahel G5, a group comprised of Mali, Chad, Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Niger which is focused on reinforcing regional cooperation in security and development.

Burkinabe President Kabore, French president Macron and German chacellor Merkel meeting on the margins of the G7 summit in Biarritz
Burkinabe President Kabore wants more international help, as promised by France and GermanyImage: Getty Images/AFP/I. Langsdon

But there is dissatisfaction within the G5 too. On a visit to Bamako on Saturday, Niger's President Mahamadou Issoufou linked Kidal's status in northern Mali, still beyond the control of the Malian government, to the spread of terrorism in the Sahel region. He said the failure to oust the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) from the region has turned it into a haven for several terrorist groups.

A mistake

Issoufou argued that Kidal should fall under the control of Bamako, in accordance with an agreement signed in Algiers in 2015. Regional heads of state are due to meet in the Burkina Faso capital Ouagadougou on Saturday to discuss the security situation.

Some analysts believe the Algiers agreement in itself is more part of the problem than a solution. "As you know, this agreement was negotiated in a weak position for Mali," Nicolas Normand, former French ambassador to Ouagadougou, told DW. The international community and France too made a mistake in so far as they considered these separatist armed groups reliable political partners." 

Eric Topona contributed to this article

Training for combat in Burkina Faso

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