Burkina Faso: Growing Violence Threatens Health Care

Away from the worlds attention, Burkina Faso has been slipping into violence. In less than a year, the number of displaced has increased fivefold, from 50,000 last December, to 270,000 in August. As ever, the most vulnerable suffer most: the very young, and the very old.

When Alidou Sawadogos elderly mother fell ill, he faced a long and dangerous journey to get treatment for her.

“When she collapsed, a friend called me,” he explains. “By the time I arrived she was already unconscious. I decided to take her to the health center and luckily someone who had a motorcycle helped me. Because of the violence many people who are sick wait at home and die. Everyone is afraid of taking the road to the health center in Barsalogho.”

Across Burkina Faso, the rising insecurity has forced over a hundred health centers to close, or to limit their work. Half a million people now have little or no access to health care. Dedicated health workers, among them Dr Bertrand Dibli in Barsalogho, are struggling to meet the needs, and to stay safe themselves.

“This is one of the few health centers that isnt closed,” he says. “We dont have enough equipment. And the insecurity has caused huge anxiety among health workers. Even coming here to Barsalogho is a huge challenge because the route is so dangerous.”

The ICRC has been working to support Burkina Fasos health professionals, with medical kits, and vaccination campaigns. During his visit to the country, ICRC President Peter Maurer expressed his concern at the multiple challenges facing Burkina Fasos people.

“We are very concerned,” he said. “Very worried about the upsurge in violence, its a vicious circle that is trapping the civilian population between armed groups.”

“We also see,” Mr Maurer added, “that it is not only the violence that is affecting the country, it is also under development, and climate change. Together with the violence that is obstructing the health services, its an accumulation of factors.”

And so the ICRC – jointly with the Burkinabé Red Cross – is also delivering food to the displaced, and helping to improve access to water supplies. All of this, says nurse Jeanette Kientega, is desperately needed by a population uprooted by conflict, and denied access to basic health care.

“By the time they are able to get here, it is often too late” she says. “Sometimes we can help, but if they have already been ill a long time, it is difficult. We try to do what we can.”

Expectant mothers, new mothers, and the newborn are a priority. Salamata Oueadraogo made it to the health center in time to get the care she and her baby needed.

“The other health centers were closed, so I came here so I could be taken care of when the baby came. And, thank God, I was able to have my baby safely, here.”

Hopefully, with the support of Burkina Fasos dedicated health workers, other mothers and babies will get the same lifesaving care. But for Burkina Fasos people to enjoy real safety, health services and their staff must be respected.

KEY FACTS: ICRC in cooperation with the Burkinabé Red Cross

  • Health: The ICRC has provided medical kits to health facilities in the Sahel, East and North regions, benefitting more than 21,000 people. We also supported a vaccination campaign for children (measles, meningitis) and support health centers.
  • Food: From January to June 2019, the ICRC has assisted 22,000 internally displaced people with food in violence-affected regions.
  • Water: The ICRC rehabilitates water points and drills boreholes to improve peoples access to water. More than 7,800 people have benefitted.
  • Livelihoods: The vaccination of 68,000 heads of cattle was also organized early this year to support the main means of survival of many violence-affected people.

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