On Burkina Faso visit, UN relief chief stresses need for rapid response to food crisis

Representatives from UNHCR guide humanitarian chief Valerie Amos (centre) through a refugee camp in Mentanao, Burkina Faso. Photo: OCHA/David Gough

23 May 2012 – The United Nations humanitarian chief today stressed the need to respond rapidly to the food and nutrition crisis in Burkina Faso, which is affecting some 2.8 million people, and underlined the importance of building resilience in the country for future emergencies.

“The drought and rising food prices have taken their toll. Many families have had to sell their livestock to cover their household food needs or they are eating the seeds that they should plant for the next season,” the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Valerie Amos, said at the end of a two-day visit to the country.

Burkina Faso is part of the Sahel region, in which there are currently 15 million people facing food insecurity. The region stretches from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea, and includes Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, and the northern regions of Cameroon, Nigeria and Senegal.

According to a news release issued by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), which Ms. Amos heads, there are also some 60,000 Malian refugees in the country in need of assistance. Apart from the humanitarian situation and a recent military coup, Mali has also experienced renewed fighting in its north, between Government forces and Tuareg rebels.

In addition to her meetings with Burkina Faso’s President Blaise Compaore and other officials, with whom she discussed the Government’s response plans, and a review of the current efforts of humanitarian agencies based in the country, Ms. Amos also met some of the Malian refugees located in a camp in the city of Mentanao.

“While they are very appreciative of the people and Government of Burkina Faso, they are worried about a number of things,” she said, citing the limited water and sanitation facilities, the quality and type of food, and the need for schools for young people. “I was pleased to see that the people in the local communities, who are sharing the little they have, are also being helped.”

Ms. Amos underlined the importance of shifting from response measures to implementing policies that will strengthen the country’s economy and better prepare it for future crises. She welcomed the Government’s approach to address the crisis, which includes improving water conservation, making irrigation systems more efficient, increasing agriculture output through better fertilization and seed choices, and improving livestock management.

“The focus is on bridging the gap between relief efforts now and longer-term development initiatives, and we need the resources to do it,” the humanitarian chief said.

On Monday, Ms. Amos and Burkina Faso’s Minister for Territorial Administration, Security and Decentralization launched an appeal for $126 million dollars for dealing with the food and nutrition insecurity, including health, water and sanitation and hygiene measures.


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