Away from the world’s 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 Sawadogo’s 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 isn’t closed,” he says. “We don’t 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 Faso’s 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 Faso’s people.
“We are very concerned,” he said. “Very worried about the upsurge in violence, it’s 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, it’s 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 Faso’s dedicated health workers, other mothers and babies will get the same lifesaving care. But for Burkina Faso’s people to enjoy real safety, health services and their staff must be respected.
KEY FACTS: ICRC in cooperation with the Burkinabé Red Cross
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