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Crisis in Burkina Faso: Influx of Malian refugees to already hungry region

22 May 2012: Ougadougou, Burkina Faso: An ‘unfolding, silent crisis’ is happening in Burkina Faso, warns Plan.

It is estimated that every day another 50 to 100 Malians cross the border joining more than 61,600 refugees already here seeking refuge from conflict, in a region stressed by an extraordinarily hard “lean season.” The refugee population is primarily children, 57% (32,385) are under 17 years old.

The UN has estimated that the figure of refugees fleeing conflict in Mali over the border will increase to 100,000 in the coming months.

Refugees have been arriving with their livestock, including 100,000 cattle to areas hard hit by drought and short of fodder and food supplies.

Huge need for aid

“As quickly as refugee camps can be constructed, their population quickly swells beyond capacity,” said Mark Wentling, Plan Country Director in Burkina Faso. “Humanitarian actors are rushing to meet the huge needs faced by the communities, but the desperately needed funding to implement programmes is not materialising.”

Children are especially vulnerable in these situations to exploitation, violence, illness and death. Plan is working to provide clean water access through new bore holes, building latrines for refugees, and to design and implement programmes that ensure child protection and access to education.

“The humanitarian community here, including Plan, is coordinating to make sure our limited resources reach as far as possible,” continued Wentling. “Without immediate assistance, silently over the coming months, this disaster across the Sahel will claim more lives than the Asian tsunami or the earthquake in Haiti.”

Lessons learnt

On a visit today to camps United Nations Humanitarian Chief Baroness Valerie Amos said : “There was a food security problem here in Burkina Faso before there was a refugee crisis and that's why for us it’s so important that were helping the local community as well as supporting the refugee situation.

“I think we learnt a lot of lessons from (the Horn of Africa crisis). The response has been much faster. We have raised money much earlier because we knew from the Horn of Africa crisis that we got to it too late.”

But she said more funds were needed over the coming months to stop the food crisis from escalating.

Note to editors:

  • Founded over 70 years ago, Plan is one of the oldest and largest children's development organisations in the world. We work in 50 developing countries across Africa (including 12 in West Africa), Asia and the Americas to promote child rights and lift millions of children out of poverty.  Follow us on Twitter: @WestAfricaPlan
  • Plan is responding to the crisis in the Sahel in its programme countries in Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali, Senegal and Cameroon.
  • Plan Burkina Faso is building 350 latrines in refugee camps across Burkina. The operation started this month. There are 61,000 refugees in all the camps.
  • Plan Burkina is also drilling 6 boreholes in the refugee camps: 2 in the Mentao Camp, 3 in Gandafabou camp and 1 in Damba Camp.

For media inquiries:

In Burkina Faso:
Jane Labous
Press Officer
+44 (0 )7540 948 494

In Senegal:
Florence Cisse
Media Relations (Fr/Eng)          
+221 33 869 74 39/+221 77 740 36 00 46 97