Since 2019, Burkina Faso has seen a proliferation of state and non-state armed groups, as the crisis in the Central Sahel, which began in 2012 in Mali, has spread. Violence and insecurity, particularly in the Sahel, East, North and Centre North regions, have forced more than one million people to flee their homes. The country is also facing its worst food crisis in a decade.
Many people struggle to access basic shelter, food, water and medical care. According to the World Health Organization, more than 135 health facilities are closed and 140 are operating with reduced services across the country. In some instances, medical staff have been attacked in areas affected by violence, and many have pre-emptively fled.
Our work in Burkina Faso
In Centre North region, which hosts almost half the country’s displaced people, MSF provides basic healthcare and runs mobile clinics in outlying areas. In Silmangué, in the region’s Namentenga province, our teams distributed shelter kits and essential items such as buckets, jerrycans, cups, blankets and soap to more than 2,000 households in June 2020.
We provide healthcare to the community in North region’s Titao district and run mobile clinics in Ouindigui and Ouahigouya districts. Our teams increase access to safe water sources and latrines, and distribute basic necessities to the displaced.
In Sahel region, we provide emergency healthcare to displaced people in Wendou (Dori province) and Djibo city, where we also truck in water.
In eastern Burkina Faso, we offer paediatric and maternal healthcare for displaced people and host communities at two district hospitals and eight health posts in Fada and Gayeri. We have trained community health workers to treat common illnesses and to detect and refer patients requiring urgent medical attention. Our teams have also improved access to clean water by repairing and digging boreholes and trucking in thousands of cubic metres of water. In May and July 2020, we distributed non-food items in Fada and Matiacoali to improve the living conditions of displaced people.
Many displaced people in Burkina Faso have been victims of violence, have lost loved ones, or witnessed atrocities. To ease their psychological suffering, our teams started mental health activities in the East region at the end of 2019. MSF psychologist Issaka Dahila explains.
Malaria and malnutrition
Displacements and the disrupted health system increase the epidemiological risks in an area where diseases such as malaria and diarrhoea are endemic. Every year during the rainy season, the peak of malaria and malnutrition is one of the main causes of death of children under five in the country.
In North, Sahel, Centre North and East regions, MSF’s activities include increasing the capacities of health facilities, setting up blood banks and operating mobile clinics at camps for displaced people. We train community health workers, raise awareness and carry out malnutrition screening, monitoring and referrals.
The Burkinabe Ministry of Health officially declared an outbreak of dengue fever – a mosquito-borne viral infection – on 28 September 2017. MSF returned to the country within a month to support the response after an absence of two years.
Although no specific treatment for dengue fever exists, early diagnosis and treatment of the symptoms can reduce suffering and prevent death. In Ouagadougo, the capital of Burkina Faso, we continue to assist with surveillance, health staff training and preparedness in the event of a new outbreak.
Impact of COVID-19
The threat of COVID-19 adds another layer of complexity to the already huge challenge of providing healthcare in such an insecure setting. MSF teams have had to stop and adapt all non-essential medical services in health facilities. Psychosocial support, for example, is now carried out over the phone, and through radio programmes and awareness-raising leaflets.