The displacement crisis in Burkina Faso has its roots in a complex set of factors, including poverty, inequality, and the increasing presence of non-state armed groups. Environmental degradation and climate variability are also drivers of displacement risk in the country. Inter-communal clashes over land, water and other scarce resources have become more common in a country previously known for the relatively peaceful co-existence of its different ethnic groups. These communal disputes and the marginalisation of certain communities have been exploited by extremist groups that have expanded their influence and
The number of IDPs in Burkina Faso increased more than ten-fold between 2018 and 2020 to just over a million, making its displacement crisis one of the fastest-growing in the world. The country, which had previously been largely spared from the instability affecting the wider Sahel region, has more recently become the target of a growing number of attacks by non-state armed groups. The violence triggered 515,000 new displacements in 2020, a figure higher than in neighbouring Mali and Niger combined.
The country is also affected by sudden-onset disasters, especially floods and heavy rains, that displace tens of thousands of individuals each year. The seasonal rains in 2020 caused widespread flooding that triggered over 20,000 displacements. Many of the municipalities affected were hosting IDPs who had previously fled insecurity.
Average expected number of displacements per year – for sudden-onset hazards:
Since 2016, grievances regarding the level of political representation, social support, basic service provision, and infrastructure fuelled discontent among people from the Fulani community, many of whom are pastoralists. This was particularly the case in Soum province of Sahel region, where the sense of marginalization was further exploited by extremist groups, who have recruited mainly among young people.
Although the violence in the country is perpetrated by many non-state armed groups, three main groups are responsible for the majority of the violence and related displacements. These include Ansarul Islam, the Group to Support Islam and Muslims (JNIM), and Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS). Many of these groups have also fought in Mali since the crisis unfolded in 2012.
Environmental degradation and climate variability are also drivers of vulnerability and displacement risk. Inter-communal clashes over land, water and other scarce resources have become more common in a country previously known for the relatively peaceful co-existence of different ethnic groups.
Further, each year, seasonal rains and floods trigger additional displacements and damage infrastructure, posing challenges for humanitarian access and assistance. The Government’s Council for Emergency Relief and Rehabilitation (CONASUR) estimates that 50,000 people are affected on average each year by floods and seasonal rains.
Most of the country is now affected by violence and all regions host IDPs. The Sahel and Centre-Nord regions alone account for seventy-four per cent of the total IDPs in the country. The majority of IDPs are fleeing rural areas often to seek shelter in the periphery of towns and cities. They often find refuge with host families, with whom they share already limited resources, such as water and food.
The growing insecurity in Burkina Faso is driving mass displacements within the country and toward neighbouring Niger and Mali. In the northern regions, the violence has forced Malian refugees to return despite the ongoing insecurity in return areas.
The scale and intensity of the floods that continue to impact the country have also worsened in recent years. As more people are becoming internally displaced by growing violence, they also find themselves living or being hosted in substandard housing and shelters, which cannot withstand the. The floods damaged or destroyed more than 1,700 shelters in the northern regions of Sahel and Centre-Nord, which host some of the largest number of IDPs displaced by conflict and violence. Thus, many IDPs saw themselves being displaced for a second or third time. This highlights how disaster and conflict risk can converge to aggravate the situation of people who are already highly vulnerable.
The humanitarian situation in Burkina Faso has uneven impacts on different population groups. Women and girls make up over eighty per cent of the total IDP population and often seek shelter in areas where violence goes unabated and that are hard to reach by humanitarian actors. As a result, the reported cases of gender-based violence among displaced communities have increased sharply in the past two years. Repeated displacements make the implementation of protection mechanisms and psychological support much harder. Additionally, displaced men and young boys have reportedly been recruited or joined different non-state armed groups, including self-defence groups, to fight and protect their communities.
Humanitarian needs are growing at an alarming rate and an increasing number of municipalities are directly affected by armed attacks and persistent insecurity. Violence against civilians is a daily occurrence in most regions. For many, this overall climate of insecurity has also made the prospects for durable solutions hard to envision. Up to sixteen per cent of IDPs do not want to return.
The mass arrival of IDPs in and near urban areas has also stretched the capacity of local authorities to provide adequate infrastructure and services, such as appropriate drainage systems, which increases the risk of flooding and future displacements.
Non-state armed groups have also attacked schools, disrupting children’s education. The overall security situation, compounded by the Covid-19 restrictions, resulted in the closure of over 2,512 schools across the country, impacting nearly 350,000 children.
The persistent insecurity faced by IDPs influences their access to livelihoods and economic opportunities. When families, predominantly from rural areas of the country, are forced to flee, they leave behind their land and livestock. Over sixty per cent of IDPs in Burkina Faso report not having any type of income.
While most of the country’s population relies on agropastoralism for their livelihoods, the 2020 floods further reduced agricultural production and eroded people’s resilience. Consequently, around 3.3 million people faced a food crisis or emergency during the year, double the figure for 2019. The northern provinces of Soum and Oudalan are among the most food insecure, are also the worst-affected by the violence and instability.
Persisting insecurity, a lack of documentation, and the inability to return to their place of origin are among the challenges that are hampering IDPs from participating in elections. Out of the displaced adults eligible to vote, over 31 per cent lack documentation, and an additional twenty four per cent do not have sufficient financial means to buy or acquire documentation. This resulted in a low participation of the internally displaced population in the recent presidential and parliamentary l elections in November 2020, especially in the northern and eastern regions of the country.
The government adopted and ratified the Kampala Convention in May 2013. Although there are currently no legal frameworks or policies on internal displacement, some laws and dedicated governmental institutions are established and are in charge of preventing and responding to the current internal displacement crisis in the country.
In 2014, the government adopted law No.012-2014/AN relating to the prevention and management of risks, humanitarian crises, and disasters. Actions and decisions taken under the scope of this law fall under the Prime Minister’s office that collaborates closely with humanitarian organizations, the private sector, civil societies, local community actors, and technical partners.
Within the Government, the Ministry of Social Action and National Solidarity, through its National Council for Emergency Relief and Rehabilitation (CONASUR), is responsible for coordinating the humanitarian response to the internal displacement context. The Permanent Secretariat of CONASUR is in charge of the implementation of rehabilitation programs following periods of crisis.