News / Africa

Twin Crises Converge on Burkina Faso

Nick Loomis
DJIBO, Burkina Faso - More than 60,000 refugees have fled Mali's troubled north to Burkina Faso, where nearly three million people are already facing dangerous food shortages after poor rains and a failed harvest this year. The compound crises are straining relief efforts for the refugees, as well as local communities.

In northern Burkina Faso, near the Malian border, thousands of refugees have settled here in Mentao Camp, including Basséta Waleta Sidi and her family.

"We fled the violence and the killing in Mali. We are safe now, but the future is uncertain," said Sidi.

Aid organizations are supplying food and medical attention.  But Sidi, who has one child and is seven months pregnant with another, is worried about malnutrition.

"All we eat here is rice and oil, which we are not used to," added Sidi.  "And the amount is not enough, even for one child."

Not far away in Djibo, local communities don't have enough to eat either.  Burkinabé women come to this Red Cross distribution center to receive rations, while more urgent cases head to the medical post.

Nurse Rosaire Toe says the influx of refugees has put new strain on relief efforts.

"That worries us because we have a considerable amount of malnutrition already because of the famine," Rosaire noted.

The international community is not calling the food crisis a famine, but realizes Burkina Faso is at a critical juncture.

United Nations Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos visited the area in late May, to draw attention to the twin crises.

"Part of what we're trying to do is to make sure that people realize that this is something that we have to work on now, otherwise it will get much worse," Amos explained.

Though the rains have started to fall in northern Burkina Faso, the next harvest is more than three months away. And with continued insecurity in northern Mali, its refugees will not likely return home anytime soon.

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