At the heart of the Sahel region, Burkina Faso is among the 10 poorest countries in the world. With a rapidly growing population and 80% of its 20.2 million inhabitants reliant on drought-prone subsistence farming, an increasing number of families are failing to protect themselves from severe hunger, malnutrition and illness, while at least 187 000 children suffer from severe acute malnutrition. Difficult lean seasons, usually between June and August, trigger food insecurity and malnutrition.
Half of the Burkinabe population lives in extreme poverty with little access to health and basic services. Burkina Faso faces structural food insecurity exacerbated by the recurrent indebtedness of vulnerable families. High prices of cereal and mixed harvests following erratic rains are increased risk factors for 2018. An early and severe lean season (period between harvests) is expected, affecting pastoralist households' livestock and putting their food and nutrition security even more at risk.
The Cadre Harmonisé, a regional tool to assess vulnerable populations’ needs, shows that people in need of emergency assistance from June to August will more than double, from 257 000 in 2017 to 620 394 in 2018. According to the 2017 SMART survey conducted in the Sahel region, prevalence rate for severe acute malnutrition is 4.1% while the overall country rate is at 2%, exceeding the international emergency threshold.
The security situation in the northern part of the country – bordering conflict-ridden Mali - also disrupts some of the households’ livelihood activities, as well as the food security stability. Up to 13 671 people are officially estimated to be internally displaced and, at the same, the region hosts 24 000 refugees from Mali.
Since 2007, the European Union has allocated more than €200 million of humanitarian aid in Burkina Faso, with €6.5 million in 2017. In 2018, the European Commission's Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations department will continue to support food and nutritional assistance as well as provide aid to Malian refugees. In addition, a new programme has been launched for the eastern region and the Sahel to address disaster risk reduction.
The European Commission's three response priorities in 2017 were humanitarian aid, protection, and basic services to people affected by ongoing armed conflict; food and nutrition crises; and capacity building for emergency preparedness and response in high-risk areas.
Cash transfers, food assistance and subsidised healthcare, which encourages the early detection and treatment of malnutrition and other diseases, have led to a substantial reduction in the vulnerability of families. The European Commission and its partners continue to advocate for integrating these interventions in the government’s policies and priorities. The aim is to reduce the high mortality of children and mothers and strengthen people’s resilience to future crises.
In an effort to strengthen people's resilience and stop the endless cycle of food crises, the European Commission is making strides in 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 Commission 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.