Burkina Faso is among the 10 poorest countries in the world. It is situated at the heart of the Sahel region. In 2018, the region experienced its worse food crisis in years due to the combination of erratic rainfall, insecurity and high prices. In Burkina Faso, the number of people in need of food in 2018 almost quadrupled compared to the previous year. The security situation in the northern and eastern parts of the country is deteriorating quickly. The number of internally displaced people due to violence has gone from 4 000 to 41 000 in less than one year.
Half of the population lives in extreme poverty with little access to health and basic social services. The majority of people rely on subsistence farming, which is easily affected by drought. The most difficult period is between June and September, when food reserves of the previous harvest are exhausted and the harvest of the following season is not yet ready; this is known as the ‘lean season’.
In 2018, the lean season took place earlier and was severe. The estimated number of people in need of emergency assistance jumped from 257 000 in 2017 to 954 000 in 2018.
Combined with a spillover of the Mali conflict and the rise of non-state armed groups in Burkina Faso, the northern and eastern parts of the country are becoming increasingly insecure. The overall situation is quickly deteriorating, with an increase of violence, the use of improvised explosive devices and armed attacks (including against ambulances). The insecurity is causing massive displacement. The number of Burkinabes who have become internally displaced in their own country has multiplied by ten in 12 months. In the same region, 24 000 refugees from Mali are present. Additionally, insecurity makes the delivery of humanitarian assistance very challenging.
Since 2007, the European Union has allocated more than €165 million in humanitarian aid for Burkina Faso, with €16.1 million in 2018. The European Commission's Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) has three priorities in the country: providing humanitarian aid, protection and basic services to refugees, internally displaced people and host populations affected by ongoing armed conflict; addressing the food and nutritional crisis; and building the capacity of local organisations to prepare for and respond to emergencies.
EU humanitarian aid funds the delivery of emergency food during the most crucial period of the year. The EU plays a key role in ensuring that severely undernourished children receive the nutritional care they need, free of charge; EU funds provide the therapeutic food and other essential medicines needed to cure them. The EU contributes to the treatment of 187 000 children under 5 years old. In 2018, EU humanitarian aid also provided funds in response to severe water deficits that left many families who depend on livestock to survive in a difficult situation.
Aid also reaches Malian refugees and the Burkinabe population who are internally displaced in the regions bordering conflict-ridden Mali, especially through food assistance and nutrition care. Mental health support is provided to help people overcome traumatic experiences. Education is another area where the EU increased its support to ensure improved access to education in an environment where schools are being closed and teachers and students are facing threats from armed groups.
In 2018, a new disaster risk reduction programme was launched for the northern region. The aim is to increase the preparedness for health risks and implement an efficient alert and rapid response mechanism.
In an effort to strengthen people's resilience and stop the endless cycle of food crises, the European Union is linking its humanitarian emergency assistance with its development aid. The international donor community has to support the integration of resilience building measures, such as safety nets and free healthcare, as part of a social protection package for the most vulnerable. The EU was a driving force behind the creation of the Global Alliance for Resilience Building (AGIR), which brings together 17 west African countries, donors and the aid community in a joint effort to end hunger by 2032.