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Humanitarian response remains crucial to address Emergency (IPC Phase 4) in the north

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Burkina Faso
  • April 2024
Humanitarian response remains crucial to address Emergency (IPC Phase 4) in the north

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  • Key Messages
  • Current Situation
  • Updated Assumptions
  • Outlook through to September 2024
  • Key Messages
    • Although the resupply of local markets by military-escorted convoys has become feasible in various blockaded areas of northern Burkina Faso since the beginning of the year, humanitarian aid – an essential source of food for households – has remained both inadequate and inconsistent during the first three months, particularly in the provinces of Soum, Oudalan, and Yagha. However, since April, the government and its partners have been able to conduct free food distributions and launch a subsidized grain sales operation, particularly in Djibo municipality. Given the continued displacement of the population outside of Djibo town, these operations benefit a significant portion of the remaining population and meet over 50 percent of their food needs, thus mitigating significant consumption gaps and leading to Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) outcomes between April and May. 
    • Vegetable production, which has been a significant source of food and income for households in the communes of Titao, Djibo, Arbinda, and Bourzanga in recent months, experienced a slowdown in April and will be significantly reduced between May and June due to the early drying up of reservoirs. The ongoing operation of selling subsidized cereals (120 CFA francs compared to 450 to 600 CFA francs on the market), which started in Djibo on April 22, should contribute to improving food access for households whose marginal incomes from selling firewood and water, engaging in gold panning, and receiving remittances from relatives abroad were not sufficient to purchase adequate stocks from the markets.
    • Efforts have been made by the government to supply markets with shorter lead times compared to last year. However, the number of markets reliant on escorted convoys for market supply remains significant, and delays are still long for some hard-to-reach municipalities such as Djibo, Sebba, and Kompienga, occasionally leading to shortages of essential commodities. At a national level, moderate price increases (between 30 and 40 percent) were observed in March compared with the five-year average. But for these areas, atypical increases between 80 and 172 percent were observed for basic cereals and edible oil.

    Current Situation

    The security situation remains concerning across the country. During the dry season period, typically marked by an increase in activities by armed terrorist groups (ATGs), there has been a slight decrease in the number of incidents between November 2023 and March 2024 compared to the same period a year ago. But over the same period, the number of fatalities has increased by about 23 percent (Figure 1). Despite the successes achieved by the Defense and Security Forces (FDS) accompanied by the Volunteers for the Defense of the Homeland (VDP), which have facilitated the return of some internally displaced persons (IDPs) to their villages of origin (372,160 people as of December 31, according to CONASUR), population displacement persists with a high number of displaced persons across the country, although no official estimates have been available since March 2023. 

    Figure 1

    Trend in security incidents and associated fatalities, January 2020 - March 2024.
    Trend in security incidents and associated fatalities, January 2020 - March 2024.

    Source: FEWS NET, données de ACLED

    Population movements remain limited and the number of localities requiring supplies under military escorts remains significant, with supply delays of up to three months. However, since the beginning of the year, the frequency and duration of shortages of basic foodstuffs have been reduced compared to last year, particularly in Djibo, Arbinda, Titao, Markoye, and Gayéri. In April, the government was able to supply the municipalities of Djibo and Sebba after four and five months, respectively. In addition to goods intended for trade, the resupplies have been accompanied by food items from NGOs and government supplies for subsidized sale and free distributions. In addition, in the municipalities in the north (Arbinda, Gorom-Gorom, Djibo, Markoye, Sebba), the widening of the security radius around cities now exceeding 1-3 km fosters access to some marginal sources of income (firewood, gold panning) and wild foods. School canteens are functional in Djibo, allowing children to have at least one meal a day. However, population movements remain limited, and access to usual sources of income remains low. 

    According to the official production results from the Ministry of Agriculture, cereal production for the 2023/24 season (estimated at 5,147,924 metric tons) is overall similar to the previous season and the five-year average. In insecure areas in the Sahel, significant declines compared with the average were recorded (59 percent in Yagha and 81 percent in Oudalan). The off-season production has made it possible to improve cereal availability (in particular rice and maize) and the supply of vegetables, due to the support of the government through the timely provision of agricultural inputs and securing additional areas for production; however, the early drying up of water reservoirs meant that the results expected at the beginning of the season were not achieved, particularly in the Nord, Sahel, and Centre-Nord regions.

    In agricultural product markets, supply is normal to low depending on the locality. Compared to last year, the decrease in supply is more pronounced in markets such as Diapaga, Kompienga, and Gayéri in the Est Region, and Djibasso, Nouna, Tougan in the Boucle du Mouhoun. The main factor explaining this decline is the deterioration of the security situation in these localities, which were relatively calmer in the previous season. Demand is growing seasonally but remains below its 2023 level. The relatively low demand in the face of high food needs is linked to the presence of food aid in areas with a high concentration of IDPs as well as low household incomes. Poor households primarily rely on food aid, which they reduce consumption of in order to extend its duration. Furthermore, the sale of subsidized cereals implemented by the government helps reduce the reliance of poor households on the cereal market. 

    Nationally, staple food prices remain above average and slightly lower compared to the same period last year. In March, the national average prices for white maize, millet, and white sorghum were 30, 32, and 36 percent above the five-year average, respectively. Price increases vary depending on the locality's accessibility due to persisting market dysfunction. The most significant increases are recorded in the Kompienga market, with increases of 115 percent for maize, 133 percent for millet, and 172 percent for white sorghum. In the Djibo market, maize is a substitute commodity for millet, which was no longer available in March, and prices recorded a five-year increase of 106 percent. Increases ranging from 50 to 100 percent are recorded in the markets of Markoye, Sebba, Arbinda, and Bogandé due to low supply. The prices of cowpea and rice (local and imported) rose compared with the annual and five-year averages in March. The increase in the price of cowpea is justified by the low supply, while that of rice is due to the rising demand as a substitute for certain dry cereals such as sorghum and millet.

    The expansion of the security radius in certain areas, the establishment of secure production sites, and government and partner support in inputs have increased the volumes of vegetable production, although it remains low in northern areas this year compared to last year. However, the early drying up of water reservoirs and the inaccessibility of certain production sites have prevented the attainment of usual production volumes before the crisis. Furthermore, marketing difficulties have prevented producers from benefiting from the lucrative prices practiced in consumption zones such as Ouagadougou and Bobo-Dioulasso. 

    In the southern and western areas of the country, individual incomes derived from gold panning and agricultural labor are decreasing due to increased competition following the influx of young people from areas with high security challenges in search of opportunities. In insecure areas, vegetable production, gold panning, petty trade and the sale of firewood, grass, and water are the main sources of income, in addition to remittances received from migrant relatives or friends. With the onset of the warm period, income from the sale of water increased slightly. However, these incomes are insufficient to meet food and other basic needs, hence the high dependence of poor households on food aid.

    Humanitarian food assistance remains the main source of food for poor households, particularly those in insecure areas. However, the delivery of humanitarian assistance remains a challenge due to access constraints in these municipalities. Military-escorted convoys have been the main mode of delivery of aid since the end of the last quarter of 2023. Overall, aid was insufficient and irregular during the first three months of the year, particularly in the municipalities of Djibo, Markoye, Titao, and Sebba. However, humanitarian assistance increased from April onwards, especially in Djibo, where WFP conducted a distribution at the beginning of the month, followed by a subsidized cereal sale operation and a free food distribution relayed by the government. These operations have benefited the majority of the population, and coverage has reached at least 50 percent of food needs. The subsidized sale and free distribution is expected to continue in May and June. 

    The nutritional situation remains concerning due to the limited functionality of healthcare services. During the first fifteen weeks of the year, 31,418 children suffering from severe acute malnutrition were admitted nationally to healthcare centers, with 300 recorded deaths (Nutrition Directorate, bulletin No. 15), representing respective increases of 18 and 55 percent compared to last year. In hard-to-reach areas, particularly in health districts in the Sahel and Est regions, reduced access to care services (with 69 percent and 28 percent of health centers closed, respectively) and interruptions in the delivery of nutritional supplements prevent adequate care for the malnourished (Figure 2). These regions represent 30 percent and 14 percent of the death cases during the quarter, respectively.

    Figure 2

    Data on admissions of malnourished children to health centers in Djibo, Gorom-Gorom, and Sebba from week 1 to 15, 2024
    Données des admissions d’enfants malnutris dans les centres de santé de Djibo, Gorom-Gorom, et Sebba de la semaine 1 à 15, 2024

    Source: Directorate of Nutrition, PCIMA Weekly Bulletin No.15

    The limited market supply in hard-to-reach areas and households' restricted access to their usual sources of income continue to negatively impact their food security. Furthermore, the marginal incomes derived from selling vegetable produce, firewood, and water, combined with remittances received from relatives living outside the area, are barely sufficient to cope with food prices, although these incomes have improved compared to 2023. In the communes of Sebba, Gorom-Gorom, Arbinda, and Markoye, where food assistance has been irregular and inadequate over the past three months, poor IDPs and host households are facing Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes. Key informants indicate that there has been an increase in negative coping strategies such as cases of begging. Additional reports from key informants in Sebba and Gorom-Gorom also highlighted incidents of children crying due to hunger. Some women are forced to spend more time in the bush beyond the security radius searching for firewood to sell and wild products. Forced returns of households hoping to have easier access to foraged products in their original localities have also been reported, particularly in the commune of Gorom-Gorom. The increased humanitarian assistance in Djibo since April has helped reduce significant consumption gaps, but poor households still limit both the number and quantity of meals, remaining vulnerable to Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) outcomes. However, in the absence of this sustained aid, Emergency (IPC Phase 4) will persist in Djibo.

    In the other areas with a high presence of IDPs in the Boucle du Mouhoun (Nouna, Tougan municipalities), Centre-Nord (Kongoussi, Bourzanga, Barsalogho, Kaya, Pissila, Tougouri), and Est (Gayéri, Fada N’Gourma, Kompienga, Kantchari, Diapaga) regions, poor IDPs and hosts have exhausted the low stocks of own-produced food and lack income to access markets. The latter are forced to reduce both the number and quantity of meals and are facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes.

    In the relatively calmer areas of the south and west, households have typical access to food from their own production, and the majority are experiencing Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes. 

    Updated Assumptions

    The assumptions in the February to September 2024 Food Security Outlook report remain unchanged, with the exception of the updated assumptions below:

    Below average incomes: Vegetable production is expected to decline as early as May due to the early drying up of water reservoirs caused by their low filling levels during the previous season and the occurrence of high temperatures which accelerated water evaporation. Furthermore, the inaccessibility of the area to potential external buyers has prevented producers from earning sufficient income to meet their needs until the next wet season harvests. In the Nord and Sahel regions, the reduction in income from this source from May will have a negative impact on the already low purchasing power of poor households. With the onset of the rainy season, income from the sale of water, wood, and grass will decrease, as will income from gold panning. Overall, households will enter the lean season with low incomes and are likely to rely more on relatives abroad for remittances. 

    Outlook through to September 2024

    Households' access to income sources and food will remain limited due to the instability of the security situation. Populations in northern Burkina Faso, which are most affected, will continue to face Emergency (IPC Phase 4) until September due to the limited market supplies, low incomes, and inadequate food aid. In the municipalities of Sebba, Gorom-Gorom, and Djibo, planned assistance should aim to cover at least 75 percent of the needs of 25 percent of the population. However, logistical and security constraints persist and could lead to delays in implementation or low execution of plans, as was the case during the previous lean season. While efforts are being made to reduce resupply delays, household incomes remain marginal for making sufficient purchases in markets given the high price levels. 

    Overall, the atypical increases in admissions of malnourished children and associated deaths observed over the past three months may persist or even worsen in the presence of waterborne diseases during the rainy season.

    Crisis (IPC Phase 3) will persist in areas with a high presence of IDPs in the Nord, Centre-Nord, Boucle du Mouhoun, and Est regions, due to the exhaustion of stocks from own production, limited movements for access to non-timber forest products (NTFPs), and low income opportunities to cope with the seasonal increase in the level of prices of basic commodities. 

    In the relatively calm areas in the southern half of the country, where households have been able to produce despite the reduction in their stock levels, poor households will be able to purchase food from the market with income from agricultural labor and remittances from abroad. In addition, the consumption of vegetables and NTFPs will keep them in Minimal (IPC Phase 1) conditions. 

    Recommended citation: FEWS NET. Burkina Faso Food Security Outlook Update April 2024: Humanitarian response remains crucial to address Emergency (IPC Phase 4) in the north, 2024.

    This Food Security Outlook Update provides an analysis of current acute food insecurity conditions and any changes to FEWS NET's latest projection of acute food insecurity outcomes in the specified geography over the next six months. Learn more here.

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