Violence has shattered the lives of so many children in northern Burkina Faso that fears are spreading for a ‘lost generation’.
Militant groups mount brutal attacks against schools, churches, health centres and civilians. Warring communities and armed groups regularly clash with devastating consequences for locals. And five million people need urgent humanitarian assistance.
Yet, as with many emergencies which develop slowly, gradually worsening over the course of months and years, it has been largely forgotten by the world at large – its tragic consequences unseen.
Our child-friendly spaces in the Barsalogho commune are helping more than 1,200 children reclaim their childhoods and cope with trauma.
“The number of people in need in Burkina Faso has gone up exponentially in the past few months,” Madougou Mamoudoo, who is leading the SOS response to the crisis, told us.
“Ordinary people are caught up in an intense conflict between ethnic groups, and sporadic attacks against civilians are forcing them to flee across the country. Many people do not have access to basic services. They don’t have enough food to eat, and communities that have been kind enough to host those forced from their homes by the violence have depleted their own assets trying to help.
“We must not forget that children are often the most vulnerable in emergencies. Besides the lack of food, water, health and shelter, children are at risk of being separated from their families and suffering exploitation, abuse and a lack of educational opportunity.”
Of great concern is the number of children at risk of abuse and exploitation. SOS is training local teachers on how to identify and respond to child protection threats and raising awareness in the local community on children's rights
“Girls are exposed to child marriage, sexual exploitation and gender-based violence. Young boys are subject to recruitment into armed groups,” Madougou explains.
“Children are being exposed to these protection risks across western and central Africa right now – in Burkina Faso, Chad, the Central African Republic and Cameroon. And for those children who have been abused, the consequences of their trauma could be felt for years to come.
“In many cases, children have also been denied access to education. This will have damaging consequences for their futures.”
In the worst affected regions attacks by armed men have forced up to 40% of schools to close. Many more children are kept home from school by parents afraid for their safety. SOS has set up temporary learning spaces for children who have been forced out of school by the violence, so that they can continue their educations.
“The emergency happened gradually but the impact on the population is extreme. The situation has now deteriorated to the extent that if we do not provide immediate assistance, things will quickly get much worse. We have a responsibility to provide the necessary assistance to the most vulnerable children and families,” Madougou says.
“In emergencies like these SOS is often one of the first responders on the scene that can provide children affected by trauma with emotional and practical care. Our child-friendly spaces are safe areas where children can feel protected and receive the support they need.”
Burkina Faso is one of the least developed countries in Africa, and more than two thirds of the population live below the poverty line. The country has also suffered a series of catastrophic natural disasters in recent years.
SOS Children’s Villages has been working in Burkina Faso for more than two decades – ensuring that children who have lost parental care can grow up in a stable environment where they feel safe and loved and supporting families at risk of breaking down. More than three quarters of a million children are growing up without parental care in Burkina Faso.
Help us be there for children when they need us most by making a donation or sponsoring a child in Burkina Faso today.