Burkina Faso named most neglected crisis for second year in a row

Hundreds of civilians have already been killed in attacks across the country this year. Michele Cattani/AFP/Getty Images/FILE

Burkina Faso has been named the world’s most neglected displacement crisis by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) for the second year.

In its annual report, released Monday, the NRC said the West African country saw a record-high 707,000 new displacements in 2023, driven by escalating violence and a worsening humanitarian crisis.

Nine out of the 10 most neglected crises outlined in the report were in Africa, with Cameroon, Central African Republic, Mali, and Niger holding the second to fifth positions respectively.

The NRC said in a press release Monday its criteria for neglected displacement crises are: “lack of humanitarian funding, lack of media attention, and a lack of international political and diplomatic initiatives compared to the number of people in need.”

The NCR report said 2023 saw a record-breaking shortfall in aid budgets of around $32 billion, leaving more than half of humanitarian needs worldwide unmet.

Neglect now ‘the new normal’

The report said media coverage of the displacement crisis in Burkina Faso and international political engagement with the crisis were “negligible” in 2023, adding that only 37% of requested humanitarian funding had been received by the country, leaving a significant gap in aid.

“The utter neglect of displaced people has become the new normal,” said Jan Egeland, Secretary General of NRC.

“The local political and military elites disregard the suffering they cause, and the world is neither shocked nor compelled to act by stories of desperation and record-breaking statistics. We need a global reboot of solidarity and a refocus on where needs are greatest.”

The report added that media coverage in Burkina Faso also declined as “access became more difficult for both journalists and humanitarian organisations.”

Burkina Faso is currently under military rule after a junta staged a coup d’état in July 2022. Its junta, headed by acting president Captain Ibrahim Traore, has prioritized security due to the multiple lives claimed by attacks.

But in April this year, a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report found that more than 200 people were killed by the country’s military in a campaign against civilians accused of collaborating with armed groups, alleging these could amount to war crimes.

Burkina Faso said it “firmly rejects and condemns such unfounded accusations,” in a government press release.

The country’s media regulatory body, the Superior Council for Communication, announced in the following days it was temporarily suspending broadcasting and access to websites of some western news organisations including the French TV5 Monde and Le Monde, the Guardianas well as BBC Africa and VOA.

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) remained one of the most neglected crises for the eighth consecutive year, with around 6.9 million people displaced by the end of 2023, mainly in the eastern provinces, the report said.

A lack of aid forced people to resort to negative coping mechanisms, including exchanging sexual favours for food, money, and other survival needs, the report stated.

Sudan came in at number ten. Although the war which broke out in April last year has resulted in a death toll in the tens of thousands, more than eight million people internally displaced and nearly 25 million people in need of aid, the NRC remarked the crisis has been “grossly neglected.”

Recurrent attacks

Violence-related deaths in Burkina Faso doubled in 2023, according to the NRC. The country faces recurrent attacks often blamed on “terrorists.”

In February last year, the murder of two Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) aid workers led the organization to suspend activities in the region. By the end of the year, up to two million people were trapped in 36 blockaded towns, with over 40,000 facing catastrophic food insecurity, according to the report.

A displaced mother in northern Burkina Faso, Asseta, shared her struggle with NRC researchers: “When we have nothing to cook, I pick leaves and boil them in water,” she said, as quoted in the organization’s release.

Egeland emphasized the growing difficulty in reaching those in need due to dangerous roads and the prohibitively expensive minimal air services.

“Donors and humanitarians must prioritize areas that are out-of-sight to ensure they do not become out-of-mind,” he urged.

The NRC says around 6.3 million people will need humanitarian assistance in 2024, with over two million remaining internally displaced.

Hundreds of civilians have already been killed in attacks this year, including around 170 in three villages in March, and approximately 30 in separate mosque and church attacks in February.

The NRC’s report noted that many neglected crises are interconnected, with ripple effects beyond borders affecting neighbouring countries and sometimes causing broader regional impacts.

Competition over resources between refugees and local communities, driven by a lack of funds, can also cause tension.

DISCLAIMER: The Views, Comments, Opinions, Contributions and Statements made by Readers and Contributors on this platform do not necessarily represent the views or policy of Multimedia Group Limited.

DISCLAIMER: The Views, Comments, Opinions, Contributions and Statements made by Readers and Contributors on this platform do not necessarily represent the views or policy of Multimedia Group Limited.