CHRISTIAN AID has warned that there is a growing humanitarian emergency in Burkina Faso, after a conflict in the country which has caused 100,000 people to flee their homes.
The charity’s country manager, Aline Ouedraogo, said that the number of displaced people was increasing every day.
The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, has also said that insecurity in the country is getting in the way of aid efforts, and there are fears that “more civilians could be affected by further violence”.
Ms Ouedraogo said this week: “It started in January, when the village of Yirgou was attacked, killing seven people, including the head of the village. Local people reacted to this and attacked people from the Fulani tribe, because they thought they were sheltering those responsible, leading to a further 49 deaths.
“It has escalated since then, with the violence causing mass displacement. We need people to forgive each other and stay peaceful.
“More than 1100 schools in the area have closed, preventing more than 150,000 pupils from receiving their education. Health workers have left their posts, and people are struggling for food because they have had to flee their homes and livelihoods.
“Girls are particularly vulnerable, and the worsening security context may encourage kidnapping, early marriage, and sexual abuse. The Ministry of Education has warned that the risks of recruitment of out-of-school children by terrorists remains real.
“We are providing money to help families buy food from local markets, but the number of displaced people is increasing every day.”
Christian Aid is helping by providing cash transfers to help those without food living in makeshift refugee camps, or with host families in other parts of the country.
A UNHCR spokesperson, Babar Baloch, said on Tuesday: “Over 115,000 people are now internally displaced following the most recent incidents, and more than 11,000 people have been forced to flee Burkina Faso to seek refuge in neighbouring countries. Violence has also severely hampered humanitarian access to the displaced population inside the country.
“We fear that more civilians could be affected by further violence. UNHCR is joining other humanitarian partners to advocate for the safety of civilians and for the respect of aid workers’ neutrality, in order to ensure continued assistance to those in need of protection and assistance.”
Mr Baloch went on: “Burkina Faso currently hosts some 25,000 refugees from Mali who are also affected by the conflict. Violence has curtailed our access to thousands of refugees settled outside the camps in Soum and Oudalan Provinces in the Sahel Region, close to the Malian border. Refugees in these areas are urged to move to camps where UNHCR and its partners will be able to ensure their protection and access to basic social services.
“Inside Burkina Faso, UNHCR is supporting the government’s call to assist those who have been displaced. We have made shelters and relief items available from our current stocks. UNHCR is also conducting protection monitoring of the displaced, and is scaling up its presence in the country to meet the increasing humanitarian needs.”