WHD 2013

Monday, September 24, 2012

The rains have arrived - bringing both hope and devastation

By Kate Cunningham, Save the Children (Burkina Faso)

We had wished for rains. They represented the only hope of watering the dry land, of feeding this year’s crops and of alleviating the crippling food crisis caused by last year’s drought.  As the rains began to fall a month ago, we knew our hopes had been answered – however, the heavy rainfall is now having worrying consequences on the people of Burkina Faso and Save the Children’s humanitarian response.

My name is Kate and I work as part of the emergency response team here in Burkina Faso. Burkina Faso is one of the countries affected by the Sahel food crisis –over 2 million people are currently affected here at the moment. To make matters worse over 100,000 refugees have flooded into the country in the past few months - seeking relative safety from the conflict in Mali. Many of the refugees are living in camps. Our team has now been responding to this double crisis since the beginning of the year and has now provided life saving and sustaining assistance to over 100,000 vulnerable children and their families.

Hard to reach people

Two weeks ago I travelled to Kaya in the Centre North of Burkina Faso with our emergency teams to identify the most vulnerable families who would be receiving cash grants to help them through the hardest months of the lean season. The night before our trip was planned it poured with rain, and the next morning the team knew we may not be able to access the villages. We drove four hours from the capital, Ouagadougou, and twice we crossed huge dips in the road that were so flooded, people wading through were up to their hips in water. We were only 10 miles away from our first village when we came to a third dip in the road where the water was so deep it would have flooded the car had we tried to pass. We had no choice but to turn back and drive all the way back to Ouagadougou. Fortunately since then the team were able to return a few days later and has now done the first cash distribution.

Save the Children is also working in Gandafabou refugee camp – a camp created this year to house the influx of refugees from Mali.  Our teams have been finding it increasingly difficult to reach the camp, cutting off refugees from essential services. These families have already suffered huge hardships, fleeing their country, witnessing violence, leaving all their belongings behind and not knowing what the future holds for them. Luckily, Save the Children has managed, despite the rains, to set up temporary learning spaces where primary school children are taking catch-up classes and in October will start the new school year.

Limited access to life-saving services

Another impact of the rains has been that mothers are unable to reach the health facilities in their time of most need. Mothers told our team members that during the rainy season it is very difficult for them to access the health clinics - this means they sometimes do not bring their children in for malnutrition treatment and health care, despite the increase in malaria and waterborne diseases during the rains.

Continued rains crucial for a good harvest

Despite the rains bringing many challenges - they are critical ensure the crops grow and the people do not face another year of crisis. If the rains fail, even for just one week, harvests will be damaged and there is a risk the food crisis will continue.

However, even if the rains are good the most vulnerable families in Burkina Faso will still need support. Our teams found that many of the poorest households have already sold off this year’s harvest to pay off their debts, as they were forced to borrow cash to buy food to survive the drought over the past year.  Save the Children in Burkina Faso is appealing for $13m and is less than half funded – our teams desperately need more money to be able to reach these families affected by the rains and the ongoing food crisis.   
g food crisis.

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