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Djibo faces a risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) under protracted blockade

  • Alert
  • Burkina Faso
  • April 19, 2023
Djibo faces a risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) under protracted blockade

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Over a full year has passed since non-state armed groups affiliated with the Jama'at Nasr al-Islam al Muslimin (JNIM) imposed the blockade of the commune of Djibo in February 2022, encircling a population of approximately 360,000 people, 75 percent of whom are displaced from other Sahelian localities. While at least 10 other communes in the Sahel Region are also under a blockade, the current blockade of Djibo has been the longest and most restrictive, as the armed groups seek to gain total control of the area. The isolated population of Djibo faces shortages of food, water, and medicine, and many households are experiencing significant to extreme food consumption deficits and erosion of coping strategies. Survey data collected by partners in February 2023 show a sharp deterioration in household food consumption and coping capacity compared to the last round of data collected in November 2022. Additionally, anecdotal reports from humanitarian partners and key informants suggest visible and widespread signs of wasting among children and pregnant or lactating women and atypical levels of hunger-related deaths. These very high levels of acute food insecurity are consistent with Emergency (IPC Phase 4) and Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) outcomes, and the blockade is not expected to end in the near to medium term. Although Famine (IPC Phase 5) is not currently considered the most likely scenario due to household access to gardening and wild foods, coupled with low levels of humanitarian food assistance, FEWS NET assesses that Djibo faces a credible risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) through September 2023. Donors, the government, and humanitarian partners must take immediate action to scale up food assistance and ensure full humanitarian access to prevent further loss of lives and livelihoods.

Armed groups control the access roads to Djibo, destroying bridges, water, and communications infrastructure and preventing typical deliveries of market supplies. Available reports suggest that most households have sold or slaughtered their livestock and have very limited access to arable land for crop cultivation or vegetable gardening and little to no income from typical activities such as gold panning and livestock rearing. According to key informants, the small percentage of households that had the resources to plant staple grains in the 2022 rainy season harvested only one to two months of stocks that were depleted by December, compared to the typical six months. Market supplies can only be provided under military escort, and adverse security conditions caused a nearly five-month delay in supply deliveries between November 2022 and March 2023, a period marked by food shortages. Supplies were finally delivered by military escort on March 21, 2023, and while the military has coordinated with traders to set price ceilings for rice, millet, maize, and sorghum, prices are still approximately 50 percent higher than the same time last year. Only a small number of people have the resources remaining to buy, sell, or barter grain, as most poor households no longer have access to income-earning activities. 

As the Djibo blockade shows no sign of coming to an end, the civilian population is expected to rely mainly on vegetable gardening around the Djibo dam, wild food gathering, limited humanitarian food assistance, and irregular deliveries of market supplies to survive in the coming months. Key informants report that many households have already spent days and nights without food, and cases of begging and theft have increased. The government’s ban on cash transfers, issued in January 2023, will likely add further constraints to the logistics and finances of humanitarian assistance delivery; however, poor mobile connectivity, limited cash liquidity, and the lack of an operational banking system in Djibo had already reduced the utility of cash transfers prior to the ban, requiring in-kind assistance deliveries. Furthermore, in-kind aid can only be delivered in small quantities by airdrop with government approval, requiring about 30-40 helicopter flights per month just to target about 16 percent of the population with a 50 percent monthly ration over the past three months. Although this assistance is redistributed and shared among a larger number of households, these levels are insufficient to significantly mitigate the size of their food consumption deficits. Given limited funding levels and considerable security and logistic constraints, food assistance deliveries will likely remain at low levels through September.

In the most likely scenario, armed groups are expected to maintain the status quo in the interest of gaining full control of Djibo, thereby continuing to limit the delivery of market supplies by military escort and permitting civilians to have only marginal access to food, including humanitarian aid, to survive. Furthermore, there is increasing concern that the intensity of the community’s reliance on the dam’s water resources may cause this critical reservoir to dry up prematurely between April and June. As a result, Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes, with some households in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5), will likely persist, resulting in atypically high levels of acute malnutrition and hunger-related deaths. However, there is a credible alternative scenario in which Famine (IPC Phase 5) could occur, given the high proportion of the population already facing severe acute food insecurity and the potential for worsening conflict and insecurity. If armed groups intensify their attacks on Djibo, this will further restrict the movement of the population, including the ability of households to engage in gardening along the dam, leave town to harvest wild foods, and conduct agricultural activities during the July-September rainy season. In addition, the delivery of market supplies and humanitarian assistance would likely become even more irregular and inadequate than currently anticipated. If these conditions were to materialize, then Famine (IPC Phase 5) would likely occur. An end to the blockade, coupled with an immediate scale-up in air deliveries of humanitarian aid, is urgently needed to end the risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) in Djibo.

Recommended citation: FEWS NET. Burkina Faso Food Security Alert, April 19, 2023. Djibo faces a risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) under protracted blockade, 2023.

Text explaining difference between Famine (IPC Phase 5) and Risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5)

Source: FEWS NET

FEWS NET will publish an Alert to highlight a current or anticipated shock expected to drive a sharp deterioration in food security, such that a humanitarian food assistance response is imminently needed.

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