BELCHERTOWN, Mass. — The statistics coming out of Burkina Faso are difficult to read. The tiny land-locked African country of almost 16.5 million people is one of the poorest in the world. With almost half of the population living in extreme poverty (less than $1.25 a day) and a life expectancy of 57 years, Burkina Faso is the fourth least developed country, ranking 183 out of 186 on UNDP’s Human Development Index.
This low level of development inevitably leads to severe issues relating to hunger in Burkina Faso. With another low ranking of 65 out of 78 on the global hunger index, levels of hunger and malnutrition are high. This causes a variety of other problems. Children are not receiving proper nutrition which is causing 24 percent to be moderately to severely underweight. In addition, 32 percent of children suffer from stunting and 10 percent from wasting. A staggering 88 percent of children suffer from anemia, which is a micronutrient deficiency.
Hunger and malnutrition, among other reasons, affect a child’s ability to attend school. The participation rate for children in primary school is under 70 percent and under 20 percent for secondary education.
Hunger also affects a child’s need to work. With 73 percent of the population living in rural areas, the majority of work is in the agriculture sector. They are spending most of their time and energy trying to produce enough food so people can eat. This has led to 40 percent of children becoming part of the labor force.
The causes of hunger in Burkina Faso are mostly out of the local population’s control. Rising international food prices, poor access to neighboring markets and high instances of drought all lead to food shortages. These shortages in turn lead to hunger and malnutrition amongst the most vulnerable women and children.
The current state of hunger in Burkina Faso relates to the food and nutrition crisis in 2012, from which the country is still recovering. Countries in the Sahel region of Africa experienced this crisis as a result of a severe drought due to low rainfall in 2011. This region includes Burkina Faso, but also Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger, Cameroon, Nigeria and Senegal.
The state of hunger in Burkina Faso has not been improving. In an already severely impoverished county, the 2012 crisis caused the region to fall into further chaos. However, organizations and foreign governments are still trying to bring aid to this distraught nation.
The Hunger Project has been working in Burkina Faso to train locals in areas of new technology like “bio-digesters and the use of organic manure.” These strategies help with waste management and provide renewable resources for farmers.
The World Food Programme (WFP) has started The Country Programme (CP) in Burkina Faso. This program includes, “a school feeding programme for all children in the Sahel Region; and nutritional and food assistance to undernourished people living with HIV as well as vulnerable children orphaned by AIDS.”
In an attempt to give Burkina Faso access to world markets, they have also been included in a program called the Purchase for Progress initiative. This is a pilot program, started by the WFP, that is attempting to connect local farmers with food surpluses to those in demand for staple commodities. This program is currently under review to fix potential problems and assess its success.
There are a multitude of nonprofit organizations working toward ending hunger in Burkina Faso. Organizations like Catholic Relief Services send food packages, and the Water Project tries to give those in the poorest nations better access to clean water.
These organizations are a good start, but as the situation in Burkina Faso has failed to improve, it is clear more needs to be done. Hunger in Burkina Faso is a humanitarian issue and it should be given more attention.
– Eleni Lentz-Marino
Sources: UN Data, UNICEF, WFP, Boston.com, The Hunger Project