The town of Djibo in Burkina Faso has been cut off from food and medicine for months: “How long do you think a family can survive on 5 kg of rice?”

Since 2015, several parts of Burkina Faso have been gripped by armed conflict. The violence has cut off entire population groups from all assistance. Whole towns – such as Djibo – depend on convoys for food or medicine. Alfarock Ag-Almoustakine has just returned home from Djibo, where he led one of our medical projects for Doctors Without Borders.

“I am particularly shocked by the speed with which the situation has deteriorated in the months I have been working in Djibo. The town has been under blockade since February. The population is finding it difficult to adapt to the security problems, there is a lack of food and water. The current situation is critical and very worrying, not only in Djibo, but also in towns like Pama and Sebba – indeed in most of the country. The most urgent needs are food, water and sanitation and health care.”

This 2020 file photo shows one of our water distributions in Djibo, Burkina Faso. © Mack Alix Mushitsi

How would you describe the current situation in Djibo?

“Djibo has been under siege by armed groups for eight months. We hope that all parties can find a solution for the city’s supplies as soon as possible to avoid a humanitarian disaster. The security situation in the city has greatly deteriorated since 2019. It is impossible to reach the city by road through the makeshift landmines, ambushes, attacks and irregular checkpoints on the road. Today it is very difficult to supply the city with land and the inhabitants cannot come and go without risking their lives. the only safe way to reach to the city on Djibo is via a chartered humanitarian flight from Ouagadougou.

As a result, humanitarian needs have increased since July, when the city was last supplied. This situation has major consequences for the inhabitants, who are now dependent on the infrequent supply convoys accompanied by the army. There is nothing on the market and fuel has become scarce. The residents all complain about the same thing: lack of food and the high prices of what little food there is.”

How will the siege affect people’s health?

“Problems with access to medicine and delayed medical consultations – often because people cannot afford it – have been a problem in Djibo for months. However, due to the blockade, health facilities are now also facing a shortage of medical supplies. For example, malnutrition care. i district has been reduced for some time due to lack of ready-to-use therapeutic foods.

MSF’s medical team has heard from health workers and local civil society organizations that there have been deaths in the community. But this has not yet been confirmed by our medical records. There is no doubt that the situation is critical, but we cannot confirm it and a deeper analysis is needed.

The latest attack on a convoy on the road to Djibo took place last week, so the only option is UN flights, but they are too limited given current needs. How long do you think a family of six to eight people can survive on a maximum of 5 kg of rice? Maybe two or three days. Without new supplies soon, the city will indeed be left with nothing. Therefore, there must now be a humanitarian corridor for the population.’

How has the blockade affected MSF’s medical activities in Djibo?

“In Djibo, MSF provides medical and surgical support to the Ministry of Health, both in the emergency department and in two health centers. The main medical problems that our team treats are diarrhea, malnutrition, malaria and respiratory infections, which are a direct consequence of the insecurity of the population living conditions and the lack of clean water. From January to September, we conducted 41,147 general health consultations, vaccinated 6,086 children against a variety of diseases, treated 289 children with severe acute malnutrition, treated 389 children with moderate acute malnutrition, and performed 244 emergency surgical procedures.

We are also establishing water distribution activities in two locations to improve people’s access to clean water. However, it is not enough to meet the needs of the entire population.”

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