Burkina Faso: Does anyone care about our lives?

Maimounata Sawadogo with hundreds of other women and children waiting for a food distribution

Sometimes, mothers are forced to pretend to cook so that the children calm down until they fall asleep.

These are the words of Maimounata Sawadogo (above), a 33-year-old mother of two young children. When their village was attacked, 12 people were killed. Everyone else fled. Maimounata and her family travelled 170km to the town of Kaya, but the family has no means to support themselves. Maimounata’s husband, Abdulwahab, formerly a baker, has had to leave to look for work elsewhere. Meanwhile, Maimounata has to cope on her own. She says:

I still have in my mind what happened, and I do not think I can ever, one day, forget enough to go home again. Our lives will not be the same because everything is lost. Because of the fighting, our minds cannot be at peace anymore.

Maimounata wants the whole world to know that the situation in Burkina Faso is getting worse and that people like her and her family are really suffering.

A tent at an IDP camp in Burkina Faso
A tent at the camp for internally displaced people at Barsalgho

In the last few months, over 165,000 people in Burkina Faso have had to flee their homes because of violent conflict in the Sahel region. But what does that actually mean for people and communities?

About 5,400 of those 165,000 displaced people are now living in and around a tent camp at Barsalgho, north-central Burkina Faso. The camp, which was set up in January 2019, shelters 1,388 people, all of Fulani ethnic group. More than half are children. The site has 83 tents for displaced people and 8 for the camp administration (including administration, security, health and psycho-social services, classrooms, child-friendly space).

Aly Tapsoba, camp administrator at an IDP camp in Burkina Faso
Aly Tapsoba, camp administrator at Barsalgho IDP (internally displaced people) camp

Aly Tapsoba (above), the camp administrator, says:

The emergency started not much more than three months ago, but the situation is already getting worse. Shelters do not stand up to the wind. Tents of 20 square metres can comprise between 6 to 10 households. Non-food items and psychosocial support are needed for women and children. These displaced people need beans and millet, because it is their staple diet, and not the pasta that we distribute to them, unless we teach them how to eat it.

Meanwhile, another 4,000 internally displaced people live outside the camp. This is because the displaced people who fled from their homes to Barsalgho come from two communities that do not get along. The Mossi people live in the host community, and Fulani people in the Barsalgho camp. During aid distributions, the Mossi people come to the camp to collect their share. A typical food distribution involves 17 tons of food being distributed to nearly 5,500 people.

People waiting in front of sacks of food at an IDP camp in Burkina Faso
People waiting for a food distribution at Barsalgho camp

We spoke with two displaced people, Djenaba Diallo and Dicko Adama.

Portrait of Djenaba Diallo, a woman in Burkina Faso
Djenaba Diallo pictured at Barsalgho IDP camp

Djenaba Diallo (above), 60, is from Sagou. They fled when their village was attacked. She has six daughters and three sons. Unfortunately, two died during the attack. They all live with her, along with her 40 grandchildren, in a single tent. She says:

We are almost 50 in my tent. This does not allow us to live well and we can easily get infected in case of illness. We do not have enough food to overcome our hunger. We need help.

In Sagou, Djenaba owned more than 50 goats and sheep, and sold milk to generate income. She says:

I lost everything during the attack and I still have family members who are in the bush with the cattle. They had gone to feed them when we were attacked and we do not know where they are. We worry about them.

Portrait of Dicko Adama, a man in Burkina Faso
Dicko Adama pictured at Barsalgho IDP camp

Dicko Adama (above), 55, is a shepherd and farmer who comes from Kassai. He lost his only son during the attack on their village. He says:

My son was guarding the flock when he got shot. He is survived by seven children and his wife. I take care of them and they live with me too. We go hungry for lack of food and our tent was destroyed by the wind. I worry because the rainy season is fast approaching.

I mourn my son every day, he did not deserve that. Why take up arms and kill each other? Today we are suffering because we have lost all. We are tired of reaching out our hands [for aid distributions], we need to work and provide for ourselves and our families.

CARE in Burkina Faso

CARE has provided funding through our global Emergency Response Fund to provide tarpaulins and other supplies to internally displaced people in Burkina Faso. We have been working in Burkina Faso through implementing partners since 2017. Recent programmes include a project focusing on women’s inclusive participation in conflict prevention and peacebuilding in Niger and Burkina Faso, funded by the European Union and the Austrian Development Agency.

Story and pictures by Rakietou Hassane Mossi, Resource Mobilisation and Communication Officer, CARE Niger

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News and stories are provided by CARE staff working to support our emergency responses and long-term development programmes.