Over 1 million women in Burkina Faso caught between conflict and COVID-19

Published: 24th May 2020

More than a million women and girls in Burkina Faso are facing increased sexual violence, hunger and water shortage as a result of the coronavirus pandemic on top of the existing conflict, said Oxfam today.

In its report “Women in Burkina Faso’s crisis: survivors and heroines”, Oxfam reveals that women and girls are exposed to unprecedented risks including daily harassment and aggression, especially in the fields and at water points.

“We often hear screaming in the tents at night,” said one displaced woman. “Five young girls were raped by armed groups. One girl was raped in front of the whole village and left for dead, another saw her husband and son murdered before her eyes,” said another woman in Dori, in the north of the country.

Papa Konaté Sosthène, Oxfam's Country Director in Burkina Faso said: "Girls and women are incredibly vulnerable and exposed to the worst consequences of this double crisis and we need to better protect and respond to their needs, but there are huge funding gaps making the humanitarian response insufficient or non-existent in some places.” 

In addition to the traumas endured during attacks on their villages or when women were forced to flee their homes, there is also the stress of losing livelihoods, as well as the daily struggle of having to live in new and unfamiliar conditions. These are often incredibly challenging, and women told us that they lack privacy and are forced to depend on the little aid they receive. In the face of poverty, women are vulnerable to sexual exploitation, prostitution and recruitment into armed groups.

Girls and women are incredibly vulnerable and exposed to the worst consequences of this double crisis.

Papa Konaté Sosthène, Oxfam's Country Director in Burkina Faso

Currently, 2.2 million people in Burkina Faso are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. Women, girls, and children make 84% of the over 848,000 people who were forced to flee conflict. Living in cramped shared tents and with little access to water, is a lethal condition for the spread of Covid-19.

Mariam Ouedraogo, one of tens of thousands of people who had to flee her village to take refuge in Kaya, a town north of Ouagadougou, said: “With COVID-19, it's even more difficult; we leave at dawn to get the water point to get a single jerrycan. When it is too crowded, we don’t have time to collect any water. If there are too many people, we have to leave the jerrycan and go home before the curfew."

These women mostly need access to water, protection, food, and shelter. But sadly, the public services that continue to operate are overwhelmed, especially health centers and schools, depriving women and girls of access to essential public services.

Oxfam in Burkina Faso is raising 10 million euros in order to scale up its humanitarian response and help curb the spread of COVID-19.  Oxfam aims to build or rehabilitate 107 water points, to support 287,000 people with hygiene kits and prevention awareness programmes, and to set up a specific protection programme for women and girls.

Yet, barely one-fifth of the UN humanitarian response plan in Burkina Faso for 2020 is currently funded. Only 3% of the funds received cover water, hygiene and sanitation needs - the priority needs identified by women - and only 7% is dedicated to the protection response, which must be a priority for all actors.

Oxfam is also working with partners on projects to build community resilience and supporting community peace dialogue led by women and youth in peacebuilding. Oxfam’s report highlights the urgent need to promote women's active participation in governance structures and peacebuilding.

Naomie Ouedraogo Bicaba, Oxfam partner and peacebuilder in the Network of Women of Faith for Peace (REFFOP), says: “We must put women at the heart of peacebuilding. They can bring a lot as mothers, daughters, sisters.”

Notes to editors

  • Download the report "Women in Burkina Faso’s crisis: survivors and heroines”.
  • Oxfam is working with local partners to support people with clean water and sanitation, as promote good hygiene and prevention measures. Oxfam is also supporting local health services. Oxfam aims to build or rehabilitate 107 water points and to provide 287,000 people with hygiene awareness sessions.
  • More than 90% of those displaced by the conflict have been accommodated in regions already characterized by extreme poverty, weakened by a climatic crisis, poor harvests, and insufficient natural resources.
  • The population of a city like Kaya, which is between 95,000 and 150,000 people, is experiencing a shortage of essential services and resources that affects both the resident population and the displaced.
  • According to the World Food Programme (WFP), there has been a significant increase in household social expenditure linked to the COVID19 pandemic; in particular, expenditure on health and communication has risen by 26%.
  • Since 9 March the health crisis of COVID-19 has compounded the conflict crisis, with more than 748 confirmed cases, and 48 deaths in 9 regions of Burkina Faso.

Contact information

Claire Le Privé in Dakar, Senegal (GMT) I (+221) 78 140 47 93 I claire.leprive@oxfam.org

For more information, follow @Oxfam