Mass killing, starvation and flight: – Burkina Faso is the world’s most forgotten crisis

Mass killing, starvation and flight: – Burkina Faso is the world’s most forgotten crisis
On the way: A young girl is photographed in a refugee camp in northern Burkina Faso in 2020. She was forced to leave her home due to jihadist violence.

More than two million people have been displaced. Almost a quarter of the population needs emergency aid. Humans are forced to eat tree leaves to survive. However, the conflict in Burkina Faso has been largely forgotten, NRC believes.


The news reports from NTB about the West African country of Burkina Faso in recent weeks are short, but the content is quite brutal.

  • May 31: 40 people are killed in an attack in Burkina Faso
  • May 22: About 15 people are killed in an attack in Burkina Faso
  • May 19: About 20 people were killed in jihadist attacks in Burkina Faso
  • May 14: More than 30 civilians are killed in an attack in Burkina Faso

Despite the enormous seriousness of the notifications: news of the mass killings hardly reached Norwegian newspapers or news bulletins.

Every year, the Norwegian Refugee Council publishes a list of the world’s ten most neglected refugee crises.

The countries on the list are in the midst of crises with millions of people affected. However, crises rarely receive media attention, receive little or no assistance, and are never the focus of international diplomatic initiatives, as the organization claims.

The list for 2023 looks like this:

  1. Burkina Faso
  2. Democratic Republic of the Congo
  3. Colombia
  4. Sudan
  5. Venezuela
  6. Burundi
  7. Cameroon
  8. Financial
  9. El Salvador
  10. Ethiopia
Soldiers dead: Soldiers from Burkina Faso are buried after an attack claimed by a branch of al-Qaeda in 2022.

Jihadists and famine

For the first time, Burkina Faso tops the NRC’s annual list.

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The situation in the country has rapidly deteriorated since the crisis began five years ago:

Then the influence of extremist jihadist groups in neighboring Mali spread to Burkina Faso.

Since then, a massive and brutal war between the government and various jihadist groups has caused great suffering among the civilian population.

More than two million people have been forced to flee, and nearly a quarter of the population requires emergency aid.

About 800,000 people live in areas where armed groups have imposed blockades, they lack access to the most basic services, and many are forced to eat tree leaves to survive.

We must stop the suffering in Burkina Faso before despair becomes permanent. More investment must be made in diplomatic solutions if we are to have any hope of skipping crises off this list, NRC Secretary General Jan Egeland said in a press release.

spiral of violence

Morten Bos of the Norwegian Institute for Foreign Policy has conflicts in Africa as a special area.

It is not surprising that Burkina Faso is now at the top of the NRC’s list.

After the spread of the jihadist conflict in the country, the conflict developed very quickly in the wrong direction. Now there are jihadist attacks almost all over the country, he tells VG.

To resist the attacks, a number of so-called “people’s militias” were formed. This accelerated the spiral of violence even further, and led to very brutal counter-attacks against a number of villages, he said.

The Norwegian Refugee Council writes that funding needs for Burkina Faso last year amounted to $805 million, while only $339 million was allocated from the outside world.

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The number of people in need of emergency assistance is also growing exponentially: at the beginning of 2022, 3.5 million people in the country needed help, while at the end of the year the number was 4.9 million.

Malnutrition: A one-month-old baby receives treatment for malnutrition in southwestern Burkina Faso in December 2020.

Eight out of ten crises on the list occur on the African continent.

VG Bøås asks why African crises are so often neglected.

He cites several reasons:

  • Talk physically away from norway.
  • It occurs in countries with which Norway does not have a close history, or with which it has historical cooperation.
  • States do not often have a large one diasporadiasporaThe word is used for groups of people who live far from their original homelands, who stick together and nurture their original culture. In Norway, which means that the country receives less attention.
  • In the world right now, there’s a really big conflict on which most of the focus is: Ukraine.
  • The conflicts on the list have not yet resulted in this many refugees on their way to Europe. Therefore, according to Boss, it is easier for Norwegians to “close their eyes”.
French soldiers: Until February of this year, the French armed forces took part in operations against jihadists in several West African countries, including Burkina Faso.

Norwegian media published 1,800 articles about Burkina Faso in 2022. By comparison, there were 260,108 articles about Ukraine.

The same mismatch exists on the financing side:

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For every kroner that donor countries give to every Ukrainian in need, €25 has been given to each person in need of emergency assistance in the world’s 10 most neglected crisis areas, writes the Norwegian Refugee Council.

Neglecting something or someone is an effective option. It is not an inevitability that millions of people on the run will be ignored year after year, and not get the support they need, Jan Egeland says.

He adds:

The strong mobilization of people affected by the terrible suffering in Ukraine showed what the world can do for those in need. Political decisions were made quickly, borders were kept open, grants were generous and media coverage was wide. Those in power must show the same solidarity towards people affected by crises in countries like Burkina Faso and Congo.


Jabori Obasanjo

Jabori Obasanjo

"Coffee trailblazer. Certified pop culture lover. Infuriatingly humble gamer."

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