News release

Burkina Faso: Working together with communities to build their resilience in the face of a protracted crisis

Statement by Patrick Youssef, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Regional Director for Africa, following his visit to Burkina Faso

Ouagadougou (ICRC) – During my visit to Djibo, in the north of Burkina Faso, Moussa* a market gardener, told me of last year’s food shortage as we stood in front of his vegetable plot. “You couldn’t find a single grain of rice at the market,” he said. “For three weeks, we ate only cabbage and onions.”

Moussa worried that, with movement in and out of Djibo restricted, aid convoys would no longer be able to bring staple foods like grain, rice or beans and the markets would once again be bare. Alima* and her family also lived through the food shortage. When hunger gripped her village, entire families left for other towns. In doing so, they risked falling prey to armed violence along the way, but starvation threatened if they stayed.

For several years, Burkina Faso has been caught in the grips of challenging security and humanitarian conditions, with dire consequences for civilians: thousands of displaced people and residents can no longer meet their basic needs and are struggling to get food, water and health care.

 In Djibo, I was above all moved by community members’ resilience. Warm, brave people like Moussa and Alima are determined to help find solutions to the problems they face every day, which stem largely from armed violence. One such solution is more vegetable plots, and although access to land is limited, men and women have come together to plant gardens for their survival.

The ICRC and the Burkinabe Red Cross Society are working with the ministry of agriculture to help people produce their own food – seed, tools and livestock, but also training on how to harvest their crops to improve the yield. In Ouahigouya, in the north, and Fada N’Gourma, in the east, the ICRC is supporting income-generating projects for vulnerable communities – both displaced people and residents. By keeping bees, fattening cattle or making rubber shoes, people can earn a livelihood and bolster their autonomy and resilience. We have helped some 80,000 people in this way, yet needs remain great. We must come together to boost communities’ ability to cope in the face of this protracted crisis.

Before the situation worsened, Moussa farmed nearly two hectares of land, and Alima sold fresh fruit juice. Like many people, they were forced into town by violence. Alima was attacked during the night in her village. She and her family fled the next day and – five years later – have yet to return. More than two million people have been displaced within Burkina Faso, and the state is struggling to meet communities’ urgent needs.

The same is true at the Kaya medical centre. When I visited in September 2020, no fewer than 140,000 displaced people had arrived in the last year. The centre’s head nurse spoke with me about what we had achieved, but also about the humanitarian challenges that loomed. Since then, health authorities, the Burkinabe Red Cross Society, and the ICRC have worked together to expand the hospital’s capacity in the face of an influx of patients, mostly displaced people. When I visited in 2020, an average of 70 women gave birth at the medical centre each month: now, the centre can accommodate 400 women per month.

The ICRC has been on the ground in Burkina Faso since 2006 and will continue to work with communities affected by crisis to find solutions that meet their urgent and longer-term needs. Today, the ICRC delegation based in Ouagadougou has four subdelegations, in Djibo, Fada, Ouahigouya and Dori, and works closely with the Burkinabe Red Cross Society to come to the aid of vulnerable communities as part of its strictly humanitarian mission. The ICRC is continuing its work on behalf of people in detention by visiting places of detention and working to improve the conditions there. We are also continuing to work with the Burkinabe Red Cross Society to reunite families who have ben separated by crisis. And, in line with our Fundamental Principles of humanity and impartiality, we maintain regular, bilateral and confidential dialogue with all parties so that we can continue to help affected communities.

The crisis in the Central Sahel continues, and it is more essential than ever that we continue to build on our work on behalf of these particularly vulnerable communities – for them and with them.


About the ICRC

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is a neutral, impartial and independent organization with an exclusively humanitarian mandate that stems from the Geneva Conventions of 1949. It helps people around the world affected by armed conflict and other violence, doing everything it can to protect their lives and dignity and to relieve their suffering, often alongside its Red Cross and Red Crescent partners.


For more information, please contact:
Eléonore Asomani, ICRC Dakar, tel.: +
221781864687, email: