The Columbus Dispatch

Burkina Faso: More than 2 million people displaced

- Sam Mednick

DAKAR, Senegal – Violence linked to al-qaida and the Islamic State group has made Burkina Faso a country with one of the world’s fastest-growing population­s of internally displaced people, with the number mushroomin­g by more than 2,000% since 2019, according to government data.

Figures released last month showed more than 2 million people are internally displaced in the West African nation, the majority of them women and children, fueling a dire humanitari­an crisis as the conflict pushed people from their homes, off their farms and into congested urban areas or makeshift camps.

Aid groups and the government are scrambling to respond amid a lack of funds and growing needs. One in four people requires aid, and tens of thousands are facing catastroph­ic levels of hunger. Yet not even half of the $800 million humanitari­an response budget requested last year by aid groups was funded, according to the United Nations.

“The spectrum of consequenc­es (for people) is vast but grim at every point. A lot of people might die, and they’re dying because they weren’t able to access food and health services, because they weren’t properly protected, and the humanitari­an assistance and the government response wasn’t sufficient,” Alexandra Lamarche, a senior fellow at advocacy group Refugees Internatio­nal, said.

The violence has divided a oncepeacef­ul nation, leading to two coups last year. Military leaders vowed to to stem the insecurity, but jihadi attacks have continued and spread since Capt. Ibrahim Traore seized power in September.

The government retains control of less than 50% of the country, largely in rural areas, according to conflict analysts. Al-qaida and Islamic State-affiliated groups control or threaten large areas, said Rida Lyammouri, senior fellow at the Policy Center for the New South, a Morocco-based think tank.

“State security forces don’t have the resources (human and equipment) to fight both groups at all fronts,” he said.

The jihadis’ strategy of blocking towns, preventing people from moving freely and goods from flowing in, has compounded the displaceme­nt crisis. Some 800,000 people in more than 20 towns are under siege, say aid groups.

“The situation is very difficult . ... People don’t have food, children don’t have school,” said Bibata Sangli, 53, who left the eastern town of Pama just before it came under siege in January 2022. She still has family there who are unable to leave, Sangli said.

Since the military takeovers of Burkina Faso’s government began in January 2022, incidents against aid organizati­ons perpetrate­d by the security forces increased from one in 2021 to 11 last year, according to unpublishe­d data for aid groups seen by The Associated Press. The incidents included workers being arrested, detained and injured.

Rights groups, analysts and civilians say Traore, the junta leader, is only focused on achieving military gains and cares little about human rights, freedom of speech or holding people accountabl­e for indiscrimi­nate killings of individual­s suspected of supporting the militants.

 ?? SAM MEDNICK/AP ?? Displaced people wait for aid in Djibo, Burkina Faso, on May 26. Tens of thousands are facing catastroph­ic levels of hunger.
SAM MEDNICK/AP Displaced people wait for aid in Djibo, Burkina Faso, on May 26. Tens of thousands are facing catastroph­ic levels of hunger.

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