The Norwegian Refugee Council said Burkina Faso’s slow and insufficient humanitarian response to escalating attacks in the country is forcing people to choose between violence or hunger.
OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso – Burkina Faso’s slow and insufficient humanitarian response to escalating attacks in the country is forcing people to choose between violence or hunger, the Norwegian Refugee Council warned on Monday.
The surge in al-Qaida and Islamic State-linked violence in the war-weakened West African country has forced more than 275,000 people from their homes since April, double the number displaced in the country. over the previous seven months, according to government statistics. Yet a lack of government capacity and a critical funding gap prevent aid groups from responding on time and put civilians at greater risk, the agency said.
“It is unacceptable that families who have endured horrific violence and hunger are now being left behind due to the inability of humanitarian organizations and authorities to respond effectively together,” said Manenji Mangundu, director of the Norwegian Council for refugees in Burkina Faso to The Associated Press. .
The government struggles to register the growing number of displaced people, but has been unwilling to let aid workers intervene, causing newly displaced families to wait weeks for food or shelter, and tempt many people. to return home despite the threat of attacks, he said.
Jihadist violence rocked the once peaceful nation for five years, displacing more than 1.4 million people and forcing nearly 3 million people to go hungry. The violence shows no sign of abating. The past few months have seen some of the deadliest fighting since the conflict began. At least 160 people were killed in June in an attack in the village of Solhan in the Sahel region, residents said, and 341 people were killed in August, more than three times the number killed in the same period last year, according to Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project.
Since the start of the crisis, aid groups say the government has wanted to keep control over the response, reluctant to let aid groups help with the registration process that is slowing things down. The government has also made it more difficult for the media to report on the situation, by banning journalists from visiting displacement sites.
“The government seems to be prioritizing its desire to lead the response over the well-being of its people,” said Alexandra Lamarche, senior counsel for West and Central Africa for Refugees International. “The government’s efforts to control the response, restrict and censor the media, do not change the troubling fact that the country’s humanitarian crisis continues to worsen,” she said.
The government did not respond to AP’s requests for comment. The Minister of Humanitarian Action, Hélène Marie Laurence Ilboudo Marchal, previously said that the media ban was implemented to protect the dignity of displaced people.
As the government grapples with the humanitarian crisis, the country’s ill-equipped and under-trained army struggles to stem the attacks and says jihadists are gaining ground.
A high-ranking officer told the PA during a visit to the town of Dori in July that fighting the jihadists was a real challenge because they are now everywhere. The AP does not use his name because he was not authorized to speak to the media. Even if they don’t win militarily, they win by economically destroying the country, he said.
The deteriorating security situation sparked widespread unrest. Protests in July demanding that the government take firmer action prompted President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré to dismiss his defense and security ministers and to appoint himself defense minister. Last month, the Defense Ministry announced it would revise its counterterrorism strategy, including implementing military changes and focusing on humanitarian aid, but did not provide details. .
Meanwhile, displaced civilians say they are struggling to survive. Abderamane Tamboura fled Solhan in the June attack, but months later said he received no support.
“We have no food and no humanitarian organization or government has helped us so far,” the father of two, 30, told the AP by phone from northern Yagha province. “(The) humanitarian situation is getting worse, we will starve here,” he said.