Number of displaced in Burkina Faso rises amid jihadist violence

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OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso (AP) — Ami Sana hangs up a ragged tarp for some shade where she can rest during a break from pounding rocks in the scorching sun.

“The work is hard. It weakens my body, but what else can I do? she asked.

Mother-of-six is ​​one of 2 million people displaced by rapidly rising Islamist violence in Burkina Faso, UN says

Amid the noise of pickaxes and falling rocks, Sana found work in the Pissy granite mine, on the outskirts of Burkina Faso’s capital, Ouagadougou.

Lifting heavy rocks and pounding them into gravel to sell to construction companies is hard work that doesn’t earn him enough to feed or properly educate his children, Sana said. But it’s the best job she can find.

The influx of civilians from rural villages plagued by extremist violence has put pressure on cities in Burkina Faso.

“Some of the host cities have doubled or tripled in size over the past three years, and their infrastructure is often stretched,” said Hassane Hamadou, national director of the Norwegian Refugee Council.

“Schools can’t absorb all the new children, water points can’t provide enough for everyone. As a result, hundreds of thousands of people are left without access to education, clean water or health care,” he said.

The influx of displaced people creates competition between the approximately 3,000 people working at the granite mine. At least 500 displaced people started working at the mine last year, making it harder for the original miners to earn a living, said site manager Abiba Tiemtore.

“With more people, it is difficult to collect so many stones and it impacts our daily income,” she said. Miners who used to earn around $1 a day say they are now lucky if they earn 80 cents.

When it took power in January, Burkina Faso’s ruling junta pledged to eradicate extremist violence, but it did little to address the growing number of displaced people.

The government has a responsibility to provide these social services to the growing number of displaced people, said Alexandra Lamarche, senior counsel for West and Central Africa for Refugees International.

The humanitarian affairs minister did not respond to a request for comment on the situation.

So far, the junta has failed to stem extremist violence. In January, 160,000 people were newly displaced, the second highest monthly increase in three years, according to a report by international aid groups. Hard-hit areas like the Centre-Nord region, home to Burkina Faso’s largest displaced population, are caving under the pressure.

“The impact of moving people from their farms to big cities is disorientation (and) increased poverty (and) fear,” said Abdoulaye Pafadnam, former mayor of Barsalogho, one of the main cities. of the North Center region.

Violence prevents aid groups from reaching people in need. Roads that could be traveled safely six months ago are lined with explosives and the United Nations until recently had only one helicopter to transport people and aid across the country.

The pressure on cities has also begun to create divisions between some host and displaced communities. In the northern town of Ouahigouya, people staying in an overcrowded displacement camp said residents chased them out of the forest if they tried to cut wood for cooking, accusing them of trying to destroy it.

With no end to jihadist violence in sight, the number of displaced people from Burkina Faso is expected to continue to flood urban centers where they will seek work.

“I fear that I will not be able to afford to take care of my children,” said Fati Ouedraogo, a displaced mother of 10 in Ouahigouya. “When children cry, I don’t know what to do.”

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