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Djibo, Burkina Faso: “How long do you think a family can survive on 5 kg of rice?”
Interview with Alfarock Ag-Almoustakine, MSF project coordinator in Djibo, Burkina Faso
What are your reflections as you end your assignment with MSF in Djibo?
“I’ve been particularly shocked by how fast the situation has deteriorated during the months I’ve been working in Djibo. The town has been under a blockade since February. The population has a hard time adjusting to the security challenges. They can’t access their farms on the outskirts of the town and they can’t tend their cattle, as there are shortages of food and water. The situation today is critical and very concerning, not only in Djibo, but also in towns such as Pama and Sebba – in fact across most of the country. Relief efforts need to be ramped up now more than ever, countrywide. The most urgent needs are for food, water and sanitation, and healthcare.”
''I’ve been particularly shocked by how fast the situation has deteriorated during the months I’ve been working in Djibo. The town has been under a blockade since February.''
How would you describe the situation today in Djibo?
“Djibo has been under siege by armed groups for the past eight months. We hope that all parties can find a solution to supply the town as quickly as possible to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. The security situation in the town has deteriorated sharply since 2019. It is impossible to reach it by road because of improvised explosive devices, ambushes, attacks and the irregular checkpoints set up on the road. It is very hard today to supply the town by land, and residents can’t come and go without risking their lives. The only safe way to get to Djibo today is via a chartered humanitarian flight from Ouagadougou.
The town itself is also very unsafe at times, with sporadic raids by armed groups, as happened in June.
As a result, humanitarian needs have multiplied since July, which was the last time the town received supplies. This situation is having a major impact on its residents, who now depend on the rare supply convoys escorted by the army. You can’t find anything in the market and fuel has become scarce. Residents all complain about the same thing: the shortages of food and the inflated prices of what little food there is.”
''The security situation in the town has deteriorated sharply since 2019. It is impossible to reach it by road because of improvised explosive devices, ambushes, attacks and the irregular checkpoints set up on the road. It is very hard today to supply the town by land, and residents can’t come and go without risking their lives. The only safe way to get to Djibo today is via a chartered humanitarian flight from Ouagadougou.''
What impact is the siege having on people’s health?
“Difficulties getting hold of medications and delayed medical consultations – often because people can’t afford it – have been a problem for months in Djibo. But today, because of the blockade, health facilities are also experiencing shortages of medical supplies. Malnutrition care, for example, has been reduced for some time in the district due to a shortage of ready-to-use therapeutic food.
MSF’s medical team has heard about deaths in the community from community health workers and local civil society organisations. But this isn’t yet confirmed by our medical data. There is no doubt that the situation is critical, but we can’t confirm it and a deeper analysis is necessary.
The most recent attack on a convoy on the road to Djibo happened just last week, so the only option is the UNHAS flights, but this is too limited considering the current needs. How long do you think a family of six to eight people can survive on a maximum of 5 kg of rice? Two or three days maybe.
Without new supplies soon, the town will really be left with nothing. This is why the population needs a humanitarian corridor to be set up now.”
How has the blockade impacted MSF’s medical activities in Djibo?
“In Djibo, MSF provides medical and surgical support to the Ministry of Health in the emergency room as well as in two health centres. The main medical issues dealt with by our team are diarrhoea, malnutrition, malaria and respiratory infections, which are a direct result of people’s precarious living conditions and the lack of clean water. We provided 41,147 general health consultations from January to September, vaccinated 6,086 children against a range of diseases, treated 289 children with severe acute malnutrition, treated 389 children with moderate acute malnutrition, and performed 244 emergency surgical interventions.
We have also set up water distribution activities in two sites to strengthen people’s access to clean water. However, it isn’t enough to meet the needs of the whole population.
In recent weeks, security reasons have forced us to reduce our activities in one of the two health centres where we work. We have also had to reduce our water-trucking activities, due to the shortage of fuel as well as the security situation in some parts of the town.
We too will have to adjust to this situation in order to continue providing people in Djibo with free healthcare.”