KAYA, BURKINA FASO - The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) calls Burkina Faso the world’s fastest-growing displacement and protection crisis, with more than 1 million internally displaced people (IDPs) and counting.
Among the displaced are an estimated 140,000 disabled people who struggle with discrimination, exploitation, and accessing aid.
Disabled internally displaced people suffer disproportionately in Burkina Faso’s war with local bandits, jihadi groups and other terrorists. Rachidatou Maiga and her mother, Adjaratou, fled the town of Arbinda almost two years ago.
Adjaratou said life is very difficult because Rachidatou can't walk. She must physically carry her wherever she goes, and it’s because of that they had to flee to Kaya.
When the terrorists began killing people outside their house, Adjaratou was left with an impossible decision: endanger the whole family and stay in the house, or run with the five children who could, leaving Rachidatou behind.
“The day of the attack we ran and left her in the house,” Adjaratou said.
After the attack, they went back to the house. Rachidatou had survived the terrorist raid, but Adjaratou knew they couldn’t stay in the town any longer. Rachidatou said life has improved since they arrived in Kaya, a major humanitarian hub.
She said she is feeling healthy and at least they get food.
The leader of the host community where the Maigas now live said he regularly sees IDPs with disabilities struggling more than others.
Chief Madiega Djambel thinks it's good to support family members first, because they are the ones who care for the disabled ultimately. He points out that support should not be purely financial either but should extend to teaching a trade to those who are disabled.
A top priority for the UNHCR is helping the disabled IDPs get access to aid, however, identifying people with disabilities is often difficult.
Charles Zoueke Makouaka is a UNHCR protection officer and said the organization is especially focused on accessibility to services, how people living with a disability can get that little bit of extra help getting to services.
There are also the issues of stigma and discrimination that they have to deal with, sometimes even among those providing the services or within the community. Raising awareness of disabilities is crucial, he said.
Because multiple U.N. agencies meet the needs of disabled persons, getting help can be complicated.
Nonetheless, many disabled IDPs show unusual resilience in the face of the conflict. Ludovic Kabore, whose name has been changed to protect his identity, stood up to terrorists who tried to mug him.
He met with the terrorists in the street of his hometown. They told him to run away and tried to steal his phone. He just replied, “I am not afraid of you.”