Our Partner's Corner : Entire Families Trapped Between Conflict and Hunger
Let's take a trip to Dori, in the northeast of Burkina Faso. Capital of the Sahel region, its population has exploded in recent years with the arrival of internally displaced people. In a never-ending atmosphere of civil insecurity, entire families have fled their homelands to seek refuge in Dori. Upon arrival in an environment that is completely foreign to them, they are faced with a new and potentially equally deadly threat : hunger.
Maiga Abdoulaye Belko, facilitator at the Association pour la Gestion de l'Environnement et le Développement (AGED), has been helping these families, but the challenge remains enormous. He opened himself up to us.
Question : You are in Dori, a town that hosts many IDPs from the region. What challenges do they face when they arrive here ?
Maiga Abdoulaye : You have to acknowledge that the people arrived in very difficult conditions. They have no food and they are strangers to the site and to their community. First, we must understand the conditions in which they left their homes. Most of them left with nothing and even left their families behind. Their family members joined them later on. There are also people who, depending on the situation, were able to wait to come here with their families. They are living here in really difficult conditions.
Question : Can you tell us more about these conditions?
Maiga Abdoulaye : Some are homeless and have no resources. Members of some households move from concession to concession to work as grinders, wash clothes, and go to the market to do dock work, in order to find food for their families because they are desperately lacking money. Among them, very few earn enough to provide two meals a day. Because of this, we have noticed cases of malnutrition, especially among pregnant women, nursing mothers and children.
Question : How are you helping them to ensure their means of subsistence?
Maiga Abdoulaye : To better organize our support, we have established a protection process that allows us to identify people in difficulty. Social action provides us with lists of names based on the data on displaced persons. Normally, any newcomer must register on their lists. We then approach them and organize distributions of food and other essentials, such as soap or shampoo, so that the families can maintain good hygiene. In addition, cash transfers are carried out.
Question : How are these cash transfers organized and generally how are the funds used by the people affected ?
Maiga Abdoulaye : Cash transfers allow displaced people to have a certain amount of money with which they can buy food according to their needs. The transfer is made via a sim card given to the head of the family, who receives a cash deposit based on the size of the household. Vulnerable households receive 5,000 fcfa per person (about 7.60 euros). This transfer is intended solely for the family's food needs.
For some traders in the informal economy, we were able to give them 75,000 CFA francs (about 114 euros) per person so that they could carry on with their activities.
Question : Do these different actions allow you to reach and help all the families of Dori who are in need ?
Maiga Abdoulaye : As they like to say, what we bring is usually just symbolic. With certain household sizes, we unfortunately can't accommodate everyone. And even if we only target the displaced who are there, we can't cover everyone. Where we do intervene, we give what we can. But we always feel that things are not going well because even out in the street, people approach us and tell us that they have never benefited from what we distribute and that they are still waiting. Some of them have no shelter, no food to eat, etc.
Question : What needs to be done so that these people are not exposed to worse levels of hunger?
Maiga Abdoulaye : We see that the dietary intake of these displaced people is deteriorating day by day, in the sense that they cannot find any resources to feed themselves and the host community is no longer able to support them. Overall, everyone expects food, water and especially health support, but we also meet displaced people who express their need to access cultivable land. Many of them feel the need to work the land, as they did at home, but they have not been able to find land through the host community. Some of them also ask us for training or support to carry out income-generating activities.
As long as the situation continues, we will always need the support of various partners, including Oxfam. We ask the other partners to help us relieve these people.
As of June 30, 2021, the number of displaced people in the country had risen to more than 1.3 million, according to the National Council for Emergency Relief (CONASUR). They are trapped between the different actors in the conflict, in a cycle of violence that has serious impacts on their access to basic social services, livelihoods and assistance. Food insecurity levels in the country have increased by more than 200 percent between 2019 and 2020 and could reach 317 percent by the end of the current lean season. To prevent these people from falling further into what is already one of the world's worst hunger crises, governments must act now.