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After a year-long blockade, the population of Djibo faces a risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5)

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Burkina Faso
  • February - September 2023
After a year-long blockade, the population of Djibo faces a risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5)

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  • Key Messages
  • Djibo faces a risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) under protracted blockade
  • National Overview
  • Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year
  • Areas of Concern
  • Key Messages
    • Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are expected to spread across the Sahel and North regions from February to September, where armed groups are restricting household access to typical food and income sources and humanitarian assistance. In blockaded areas, barriers to population, commercial, and humanitarian movements have caused food shortages, eroded local livelihood systems, and diminished household coping capacity. Many displaced and host households are resorting to severe coping strategies such as begging and foraging for food, and there are likely households in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) experiencing extreme food consumption deficits. The area of highest concern is the commune of Djibo in Soum Province, which has been under a blockade for one year. In Djibo, households are frequently going days and nights without eating, and prolonged hunger is resulting in visible signs of wasting and reports of hunger-related deaths among the population.   

    • Currently, at least 10 communes are under blockade in the North, Sahel, and East regions. The increase in the number of locations under blockade has led to increasing demand for military escorts to ensure convoys carrying market supplies can reach the besieged areas, and the limitations on the military’s availability is resulting in longer delays between supply deliveries. In Djibo, the last delivery of market supplies occurred in late November. At the same time, humanitarians are only able to reach blockaded areas by helicopter, and levels of food assistance are insufficient to mitigate the severity of food consumption gaps among the population. Due to the lack of a functioning market and food shortages, staple food prices have reached record-high levels, particularly in Djibo, Arbinda, Titao, Sebba, and the northern communes of the Oudalan. 

    • Across Burkina Faso, market supplies of staple cereals range from normal to below normal, with variations driven by localized decreases in 2022 crop production compared to the five-year average and instances of insecurity along key supply routes. Although the government has banned cereal and cowpea exports to protect domestic food availability, staple cereal prices, on average, range from 30 to 40 percent higher compared to last year and over 75 percent higher than the five-year average. Atypically high cereal prices will most likely persist from February to September, resulting in reduced food access among poor households as market reliance increases in the post-harvest and lean season periods, especially in areas with a high presence of internally displaced people (IDPs) and urban areas.

    • Although it is not the most likely scenario, FEWS NET assesses that there is a credible risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) in the commune of Djibo, given the high share of the population that has faced prolonged Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes since the blockade began one year ago. If armed groups were to further intensify their attacks on the population, then this would further restrict the population’s movement, including their ability to engage in gardening around Djibo dam, gather wild foods, and cultivate crops during the 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 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.

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

    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 seeks 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 depletion of coping strategies. Although access constraints have impeded data collection, 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) during the period February-September 2023.

    Armed groups control the access roads to Djibo, destroying bridges, water, and communication 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 raising. 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, compared to the typical six months. Market supplies can only be provided under military escort, and deteriorating security conditions are causing delays in supply deliveries of more than three months, with the last delivery occurring in late November 2022. Although information on market dynamics is limited, available reports suggest that the market is no longer functional, there are severe food shortages, and only a small number of people are able to informally buy and sell grain. Prices for millet, maize, and sorghum reached a staggering 1,300-1,600 CFA/kg in January, about 600 percent above the average. Since mid-January, key informants report that these grains are no longer available to be purchased or bartered.

    As the Djibo blockade shows no sign of coming to an end, the civilian population is expected to mainly rely on vegetable gardening around the Djibo dam, wild food gathering, limited humanitarian food assistance, and infrequent 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. Humanitarian aid can only be delivered in small quantities by air drop, requiring about 20-25 helicopter flights per month just to target about 12 to 15 percent of the population with a 30 percent monthly ration. 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 limiting the delivery of market supplies by military escort and permitting civilians to have only marginal access to food, including humanitarian aid, to survive. 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.

    National Overview

    Current Situation

    Security situation: Conflict in Burkina Faso escalated for the fifth consecutive year, reaching a record high in 2022. Overall, incidents increased by nearly 40 percent in 2022 compared to 2021, while the severity of conflict measured in numbers of fatalities remained similar (Figure 1). Apart from the traditional areas it controlled, Jama'a Nusrat ul-Islam wa al-Muslimin' (JNIM) continues to spread its acts of violence into the center and west of the country, significantly increasing incidents in Centre-Est, Centre-Nord, Centre-Oest, Hauts-Bassins, and Boucle du Mouhoun regions. 

    Figure 1

    Changes in security incidents and fatalities from January 2017 to January 2023
    Evolution des incidents sécuritaires et des fatalités de janvier 2017 à janvier 2023.

    Source: FEWS NET avec données de ACLED

    Since November 2022, the country's defense and security forces (FDS) have carried out internal reorganizations and increased the number of Volunteers for the Defense of the Homeland (VDP). The authorities are also diversifying their partners, especially in the security sector. The FDS and their auxiliaries have conducted a series of successful operations against the JNIM militant jihadist organization, particularly in Banwa Province (Boucle du Mouhoun Region). In addition, significant losses were also inflicted against militant armed groups in Yagha Province (Sahel Region). 

    Despite these losses, militant armed groups remain mobile and dispersed throughout the country and continue to pose threats by maintaining a blockade over several areas in Nord, Sahel, and Est regions through control of the following major axes: Ouahigouya-Titao-Djibo, Kongoussi-Djibo, Kaya-Dori, Dori-Arbinda and Fada N'Gourma-Kompienga. Since January 2023, kidnappings of civilians and attacks on public transportation have multiplied, limiting the movement and internal flow of goods and causing frequent disruptions in market supply, particularly in Titao, Djibo, Arbinda, and Sebba. Internal population displacements continue to occur, with the number of IDPs reaching nearly 1.94 million at the end of January 2023 (SP/CONASUR). This represents an increase of about 13 percent compared to the figures recorded at the end of the rainy season in September 2022. The lack of income opportunities in areas with a large IDP population in the north is leading to secondary flows of IDPs to urban centers or to relatively quieter areas in the south.

    Economic situation: The cumulative effects of the conflict, sociopolitical instability, and the Russian-Ukrainian crisis are having a negative impact on the country's economic performance. Since the second quarter of last year, the national economic situation has been unfavorable due to higher customs duties, low levels of production and sales, and declines in the recruitment of employees by companies (INSD).

    In 2022, inflation reached a record high of 18.2 percent in July before gradually declining with the agricultural harvest to 9.6 percent in December (WAEMU). The prolonged Russian-Ukrainian conflict continues to disrupt the supply chain for imported products (hydrocarbons, fertilizers, wheat flour, and edible oil), keeping domestic prices high. At the beginning of 2023, the government raised taxes and increased the price of fuel for the third time, a cumulative 38.2 percent from a year ago. In an effort to boost domestic food availability and mitigate price increases, the government has maintained the cereal export ban that has been in place for four years. However, unlike in previous years, monitoring and control measures have been strengthened.

    Sources of income and food: Despite the good level of water reservoirs at the end of the 2022 rainy season and the government's support for production inputs and equipment, household participation in dry season production activities, particularly market gardening, has declined compared to average. On the one hand, persistent security threats have limited access to certain production sites in Nord, Centre-Nord, Sahel, Est and Boucle du Mouhoun regions. On the other hand, the high cost of inputs (fertilizer and pesticides), which is 50 to 70 percent higher than the average, has forced producers in relatively calm areas to reduce their acreage. In addition, disruptions in the supply of fuel for operating motor pumps have forced producers in areas with limited access to abandon their farms (as is the case in Sourou province). Overall, these various constraints have led to a decline in the demand for labor in this sector, which usually provides seasonal employment. 

    In all regions of the country, insecurity negatively affects typical sources of income. For example, restrictions on population movements and threats of attack limit access to gold mining sites or reduce the amount of time spent on the sites per day. As a result, earnings from this income source have decreased, despite the fact that the price per gram of gold is about 20 percent higher than average. Insecurity also limits access to forests for the collection of firewood, charcoal, and non-timber forest products (NTFPs). In addition, cotton production is about 50 percent below average due to widespread losses from pests, particularly jassids, during the critical flowering and boll development period. Although poor households have little involvement in cotton production, the losses experienced by most growers, particularly in western and southwestern production areas, have contributed to reduced labor demand for the harvest between November and December. 

    Staple food prices: Staple cereal prices are high and above average across the country due to the impacts of low agricultural production in 2022, insecurity along supply routes, anomalies in cross-border trade, and atypically high demand. Despite a slight improvement over last year, cereal supply is average to below average due to low to average production levels as well as insecurity along supply routes. While cereal availability in the relatively calm production areas in the south and west of the country is satisfactory, transfers from these areas to the deficit areas in the north (the Nord, Sahel, and Centre-Nord regions) have slowed due to insecurity. Also, military escorts have become necessary to reach many blockaded markets. 

    With the official ban on cereal and cowpea exports since 2019, inbound flows of maize from Togo have dropped significantly from normal levels, as Togolese transporters who used to carry cowpeas no longer have any motivation to make the trip. However, between December and February, there was a nearly 50 percent increase in the inflow of Ghanaian maize through the Léo market compared to the same period in 2022. The depreciation of the Ghanaian Cedi favors exports to Burkina Faso, where selling prices are more attractive. 

    Demand for cereals remains higher than usual due to the early depletion of own-produced stocks in insecurity-affected areas between December and January. In addition, institutional stock replenishment needs are atypically high given the destocking that took place between 2020 and 2022 to meet the growing assistance needs due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the increasing number of IDPs, and unprecedented price shocks in 2022. Due to higher import costs and other difficulties, breweries and poultry feed units have turned to the domestic market for purchases, especially of maize and sorghum, with increasing needs to satisfy a growing demand around urban centers. 

    Across the country, the seasonal downward trend in cereal prices that usually occurs between October and February was not observed, particularly for maize, the dominant cereal. In December, prices began to increase slightly compared to the previous month. For all three major cereals (millet, sorghum, and maize), moderate increases of between 30 and 40 percent over last year were observed in January. Atypical price increases of more than 75 percent persist compared to the yearly average. In the blockaded areas, prices for staple foods have reached record levels, particularly in Djibo, Arbinda, Titao, Sebba, and the northern communes of Oudalan. In Djibo, cereal prices rose by more than 600 percent in January.

    Livestock prices: The erosion of household livestock assets, especially in blockaded areas, and the deteriorating security situation continue to negatively affect the supply of livestock to markets as well as buyer attendance in these markets. Several livestock markets remain closed in the northern half and eastern part of the country. Because of the closure of large livestock markets, such as Djibo, the more accessible main markets of Kaya and Dori have become centers of attraction for domestic buyers and exporters. Compared to the five-year average, prices in these markets increased in January between 50 and 80 percent for rams, 10 and 20 percent for goats, and 15 and 30 percent for bulls. Notwithstanding these increases, the goat-to-cereal terms of trade have deteriorated by about 30 percent compared to the five-year average, due to the increased price of cereal.

    Food assistance: The need for food assistance is increasing in the context of the current conflict and insecurity, particularly among displaced populations who have lost access to their fields, depleted their herds, and have few alternative sources of food and income. The delivery of food assistance remains a challenge, hampered by insufficient funding to meet rising levels of insecurity and compounded by operational constraints. In 2022, the risk of convoy hijacking or transport trucks being set on fire forced some partners to prioritize cash transfers, which accounted for about 60 percent of assistance, instead of food assistance. However, since January 2023, assistance via cash transfers has been prohibited in the Sahel region by the authorities, likely due to the risk of funds being diverted to militant armed groups. In addition, financial, security, and logistical hurdles limit the ability of most NGOs to deliver by air. Government assistance is provided primarily by ground escort, but the deteriorating security situation and the presence of explosive devices on the roads restrict these escorts and increase the time it takes to deliver supplies by an average of two to three months. 

    In this context, humanitarian assistance covers only a small proportion of the population in most of the northern part of the country. Populations, particularly in blockaded areas, are often forced to make do with the small quantities of food that are airlifted in and that barely cover one-quarter of the needs of the targeted populations, particularly in Soum, Yagha, and Loroum provinces. Sanmatenga province in the Centre-Nord, which hosts a large number of IDPs, continues to receive regular humanitarian assistance, reaching at least 25 percent of the population with a 50-percent ration.

    Current Food Security Outcomes

    Livelihoods and food access have deteriorated in most provinces in Nord, Centre-Nod, Sahel, and Est regions, where poor households and IDPs are forced to limit the number and quantity of meals and face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) acute food insecurity or worse. In the Soum and Oudalan provinces, asset erosion, market food shortages, and inconsistent and inadequate assistance are driving many host households and IDPs to adopt extreme coping strategies, such as going days and nights without food, engaging in begging, or risking their lives by moving beyond the safety zone in search of harvested products. These households face Emergency (IPC Phase 4) acute food insecurity. In the blockaded areas in the north of the country (Soum, Yagha, Oudalan, and Loroum provinces), visible signs of malnutrition, especially among children and pregnant or lactating women, and reports of atypical deaths, particularly in the communes of Djibo and Arbinda, indicate that some people are facing Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) outcomes. 

    In urban centers, high food and non-food prices, increased transportation costs, and increased costs of cooking fuel (wood, charcoal, gas) are negatively affecting the purchasing power of poor households, who are forced to reduce the variety of their food or reduce the quantity of food per meal. These poor households remain in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity. Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity also affects areas in which recent acts of violence by armed groups have resulted in property loss and forced people to abandon their food reserves to flee to neighboring urban centers: the provinces of Kossi, Sourou (in Boucle du Mouhoun), Zondoma (in Nord), Namentenga (in Centre-Nord), Koulpélogo (in the Centre-Est), and Banwa (in Hauts-Bassins).

    In the relatively calmer production areas of the South and West, poor households continue to have typical access to food primarily from their own production. Despite the decline in income, most poor households are able to maintain their usual coping strategies and adequate consumption, thereby facing Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes.

    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year
    Seasonal calendar for Burkina Faso


    The most likely scenario from February to September 2023 is based on the following national-level assumptions:

    • Conflict and insecurity: With increased mobility during the dry season, the frequency and intensity of attacks by militant armed groups are expected to reach record levels since the start of the conflict in 2016 until the peak of the rainy season in July 2023. From the peak of the rainy season in 2023, there is likely to be a relative decrease in attacks through October 2023, although levels of violence will still remain above those observed in 2022. Acts of violence by militant armed groups are expected to continue to cause internal displacement, the isolation of new localities, and significant disruption of local markets as well as agropastoral activities. Attacks on civilians and security forces may also increase in the Sud-Oest and Centre-Est of the country as militant armed groups seek to extend their control over the historically secure Burkinabe-Ivorian and Burkinabe-Togolese borders. 
    • Seasonal forecast: North American Multi-Model Ensemble (NMME) seasonal forecasts indicate average to above-average rainfall prospects for the Sahel from June to September. However, given the long lead time, confidence in the forecast is relatively low. Provided that rainfall is well distributed spatially and temporally, it is likely to support good crop and pasture growth over the outlook period.
    • Economic situation: The prolonged Russian-Ukrainian conflict could continue to disrupt the supply chain of imported products (hydrocarbons, fertilizers, wheat flour, and edible oil) and keep domestic food prices high. Similarly, the deteriorating security situation will continue to negatively affect internal flows, limit people's access to their typical sources of income, and limit economic activities overall. In this context, inflation is likely to remain at a high level for the next few months and will continue to negatively affect the purchasing power of households, whose salaries remain unchanged or whose cash income is down compared to pre-crisis levels.
    • Market garden production: Despite government support for production, and despite the average availability of water resources, market garden production, which is usually higher between January and March, will remain below average. Limited access to production sites and the high cost of inputs (fertilizer, pesticides) and other production factors (fuel, seeds) will lead producers to reduce planted areas. Revenues from this source will be below average as the increase in selling prices will not be sufficient to compensate for the decrease in production. Similarly, the demand for labor in this agricultural sector will be below average. 
    • Farm labor income: In addition to the decline in labor demand for market garden production activities due to the reduction in acreage and restrictions on access to sites, labor demand will be lower than normal for cotton field preparation between March and May, as well as for plowing, sowing, and field maintenance operations between June and September. Indeed, the loss of income due to pest attacks on cotton during the past season and the risk of further attacks during the coming season could discourage producers from engaging in cotton cultivation in favor of other less labor-intensive crops. 
    • Market functioning and commodity prices: Overall cereal supply will remain average to below average due to lower-than-average production and insecurity along supply routes. Demand will remain higher due to the early depletion of own-produced stocks in blockaded areas, but also due to higher needs for replenishment of institutional stocks (which are generally low) and increasing private needs in breweries and poultry feed units. Cereal price levels may continue to rise above their seasonal averages between February and September and remain similar to, or even higher than, the record price levels seen last year over the period. In the Sankaryaré market in the capital, the price of white maize could be 30 to 50 percent above the five-year average (Figure 2).

    Figure 2

    Observed and projected price of white maize on the Sankaryaré market in Ouagadougou
    Projection du prix du maïs blanc sur le marché de Sankaryaré à Ouagadougou

    Source: FEWS NET avec données de SIM/SONAGESS

    • Livestock market functioning and livestock prices: The erosion of household livestock assets, especially in blockaded areas, and the deterioration of the security situation will continue to negatively affect the supply of livestock in markets in these areas, as well as buyer attendance. The redirection of buyers to markets in relatively calmer areas will sustain demand in those areas. Furthermore, the additional demand during the religious feasts between April and June will promote above-average price levels generally. This trend of above-average prices will continue between June and September as livestock body conditions improve during this period.
    • Reduction in food assistance: FEWS NET has not yet received final humanitarian assistance plans for 2023 from humanitarian partners, in part due to concerns that the response plan remains underfunded. Based on the severity of the situation and analysis of trends in recent years, it is assumed that food assistance will continue throughout the projection period. However, assistance levels will likely cover less than 25 percent of the population in most areas, except localized areas in Centre-Nord Region. In addition, food assistance distributions are often below projected targets due to security, financial, and logistical constraints, and FEWS NET estimates that increased insecurity will further limit the delivery of humanitarian assistance in the most-affected areas. 

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    In the 10 or so blockaded areas in Nord and Sahel regions, and especially in the commune of Djibo, food assistance will remain the primary source of food for IDPs and host households. Constraints on adequate distribution of assistance, market shortages, and asset erosion will cause these households to increase their engagement in severe coping strategies and resort to illegal activities (such as theft), pushing them to face Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes. Between June and September, no change in assistance delivery is expected, as logistical constraints and insecurity will continue to cause delays and limit the quantities flown in. However, the resumption of rainfall in June will increase the seasonal availability of green leaves in areas accessible by households. Access to this food source will prevent an increase in starvation. However, high levels of malnutrition are expected to persist in blockaded areas where movement restrictions are most severe, and some households will likely experience extreme food consumption deficits after exhausting their coping options, which is indicative of populations in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5).

    In areas with a large IDP population in Nord, Centre-Nord, and Est regions, early depletion of own-produced stocks due to low production in the past season, limited access to usual sources of income, and atypically high levels of staple prices will worsen conditions for food access. Poor IDPs and poor host households whose livelihoods have deteriorated with the conflict will be forced to increase their use of negative coping strategies, such as reducing the number of meals per day to one and limiting adult consumption in favor of children. These households will experience Crisis (IPC Phase 3) acute food insecurity between February and May. Savings from market gardening and gold mining, remittances from migration, and agricultural labor income typically contribute to household food access between June and September. With the decline in income from these sources and the atypically high food prices, household food access will deteriorate during the lean season. However, the use of gathered wild food products (which are seasonally more available) will be more important between June and September and will help limit extreme consumption strategies and keep most IDPs and poor host households in Crisis (IPC Phase 3).

    Areas in the west and south, which had been relatively calm, continued to experience new internal displacements of people, especially in the communes along the border with Mali (Sourou, Kossi, and Banwa provinces) and Côte d'Ivoire (Comoé). They also host IDPs from areas in the north. IDPs who have suffered property losses and the burning of crops are mostly staying with host families, putting pressure on their food reserves, which could run out early in April to May. The lean season from June to September could be more difficult in these communes, and limited access to food and deteriorating livelihoods would expose poor IDPs and host households to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) acute food insecurity. In the rest of these areas, including Banwa, Nayala, Sanguié, and Koulpélogo provinces, poor households could typically subsist on their own production until May. However, their declining income will limit market purchases at a time when prices reach their season's peak. Poor households in these areas will therefore face consumption gaps, experiencing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity.

    In urban centers, additional seasonal income from the sale of gathered products and agricultural labor will remain broadly similar to the average but will not be sufficient to offset seasonal increases in high commodity prices. The overall decline in income and rising commodity prices will continue to put pressure on the purchasing power of poor households. Poor households will continue to reduce the quality and quantity of their food intake and will continue to be in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity throughout the February to September period. 

    Events that Might Change the Outlook

    Table 1
    Possible events in the next eight months that could change the most-likely scenario.
    AreaEventImpact on food security outcomes
    NationalLate onset of rainsA late onset of the rainy season or longer dry spells at the beginning of the season could encourage speculative behavior in the markets and lead to higher-than-expected prices. This would also delay the regeneration of green leaves. Overall, food access could deteriorate further, leading to greater exposure of poor households to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or Emergency (IPC Phase 4) acute food insecurity. 
    BF07 (Soum)Increased cases of violence around DjiboIncreased cases of violence around Djibo would limit the ability of households to engage in market gardening along the dam or leave town to harvest wild foods and would also prevent households from conducting agricultural activities between July and September. This could lead to months of disruption in market supply and delivery of humanitarian food assistance, leading to Famine (IPC Phase 5).

    BFO7 (Soum, Yagha and Loroum)

    BFO8 (Oudalan)

    Improved security situationAn improvement in the security situation will allow for a better supply of basic foodstuffs to local markets, which could mitigate price increases. This would also facilitate the deployment of assistance and help improve food access as well as reduce large consumption gaps. While this would not fundamentally change the level of asset erosion during the period, poor IDPs and host households could remain in a situation of Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) acute food insecurity.

    BFO7 (Soum, Yagha)

    BF08 (Oudalan)

    Strengthening assistanceIncreased air distributions or the resumption of cash transfers will help to increase assistance coverage and reduce household consumption gaps. However, to prevent emergencies, humanitarian workers should increase assistance to reach at least 25 percent of the population and cover at least 25 percent of their monthly kilocalorie needs (IPC Phase 3!). Assistance levels may need to be even higher, as the blockade affects most of the population.


    Areas of Concern

    Soum Province, Sahel Region, livelihood zone BFO7: North and east livestock and cereals (Figure 3)

    Figure 3

    Reference map for the area of concern: Soum Province, Sahel Region, BFO7
    Carte de Province de Soum, BF07

    Source: FEWS NET

    Current situation

    The security situation in Soum Province remains a concern. The communes of Djibo, Arbinda, and Kelbo are currently under siege by armed groups, and the blockade of the town of Djibo persists since February 2022. People have fled the communes of Koutougou, Tongomayel, Pobé-Mengao, and Baraboulé. In the other communes of the province (Diguel, Nassoumbou), the population manages to carry out limited agricultural and livestock activities under the total control of militant armed groups.

    As of January 31, 2023, the number of IDPs in the province had reached 298,063, of whom 90 percent were in Djibo, 5 percent in Arbinda, and 5 percent in Kelbo. These IDPs, most of whom have been stripped of their possessions, live mainly with host families. Compared to February 2022, there was an 8 percent decrease in the number of IDPs, as some were forced to migrate out of the province to calmer areas in the south, either in search of work opportunities or to reach areas where food assistance was more available. However, with increasing threats of abduction by armed groups, movements are now restricted. 

    Despite good rainfall in the 2022 production year in the province, households' physical access to their fields was very limited, particularly in the communes of Djibo, Kelbo, Arbinda, Tongomayel, Pobé, Mengao, and Baraboulé. According to key informants, crops in these areas were depleted before January 2023, and poor households (hosts and IDPs) in the communes of Djibo, Arbinda, and Kelbo are primarily dependent on humanitarian assistance, which is becoming irregular. In the communes to the north, especially Nassoumbou and Diguel, key informants report that, with the permission of militant armed groups, households have been able to produce crops around their villages, albeit below typical levels, but not in remote fields. In both areas, households still have stocks that might last until March, compared to the usual April/May. However, armed groups prohibit any exchange between households in these communes and the rest of the province, limiting household incomes in Nassoumbou and Diguel as well as food availability in other communes of the province. In the commune of Djibo, some market gardening (leafy vegetables) takes place around the Djibo dam, but this activity is minimally practiced on small areas because producers lack seeds, fertilizer, and irrigation equipment. The crops that are mainly self-consumed are not available to households every day, and when they are available, the quantities are insufficient to avoid large food consumption deficits.

    In Djibo, poor households have almost exhausted their livestock holdings due to sales or looting by militant armed groups. Medium-sized households are also destocking because of the difficulty of accessing water and pasture resources and the threat of looting. As a reminder, large-scale herders had already abandoned the area in the early years of the conflict. The main livestock market in the province is the Djibo market, which remains closed due to the blockade. Cattle are sold in Djibo at the small occasional market, with a few animals purchased by local butchers. 

    Other current sources of income are very low and come from money transfers and donations from relatives and friends living outside the province. In the absence of an operational banking system or formal payment point in Djibo and other towns in the province, people will continue to rely on a few informal networks to provide frequent cash, resulting in irregular payments. Poor households that do not receive these transfers often risk their lives by moving beyond the security radius in search of firewood or non-timber forest products (NTFPs) to sell. Others resort to selling water. Practices such as begging and stealing are increasingly common to obtain food or money to buy food.

    Supplies to the markets in Djibo and Arbinda depend on land convoys of food, escorted by the Defence and Security Forces (FDS). Due to the increasingly complex conflict and the growing number of areas under blockade requiring escorts, the irregularity of these convoys leads to food shortages. For example, the last supply made to the commune of Djibo was on November 27, 2022, with a quantity of food that could meet purchasing needs for only two weeks, thus increasing speculation in the weeks that followed. Since mid-January, key informants report that no cereals are available in regular cereal stores, and some households are often forced to negotiate purchases from other households to obtain food. As a result, prices continue to be record high levels. Although accurate information on market trends is limited, staple cereal prices in January showed record increases compared to the five-year average: 642 percent for millet, 596 percent for sorghum, and 597 percent for maize.

    Between October and December 2022, an average of 98,397 people received monthly assistance (transfers and cash) in Djibo, or about 26 percent of the population, though this assistance covered a small percentage of their food needs. However, because of the risk of funds being diverted to militant armed groups, the government suspended cash transfer operations by humanitarian actors in the area starting January 2023, reducing the population receiving assistance compared to previous months. In early January, WFP was able to airlift food to 41,958 people, or about 12 percent of the population. The rations per household consist of 25 kg of cereals, 5 kg of legumes, 1 liter of oil, and 3 kg of fortified flour. This corresponds to about one-third of a household’s monthly needs. However, key informants report that there are redistributions to non-beneficiary households, so the final rations cover a lower percentage of households’ needs. Due to the lack of assistance, households continue to limit the size and number of meals consumed to extend the duration of their stocks, as they do not know when the next supply will arrive.

    Faced with a shortage of basic foodstuffs, insufficient own-production of vegetables, and inadequate food assistance, host households and IDPs are forced to resort to wild foods, risking their lives by exposing themselves to acts of violence by militant armed groups. Due to uncertainty over how long the blockades will last and the irregularity of market supply and assistance delivery, households are implementing extreme food restriction strategies. Key informants report that poor households engage in begging and selling water. Illegal activities such as theft are also common. According to these key informants, many IDPs and host households in Djibo report that they sometimes do not eat for an entire day and night. This area is facing Emergency (IPC Phase 4) acute food insecurity. Health centers in Djibo and Arbinda are functioning, but they frequently face disruptions in the supply of drugs needed for the prevention and management of malnutrition. Elsewhere, health centers are closed or operate at minimal capacity. 

    In Djibo, key informants also report that many children cry, especially at night, for lack of food and that there are many visible signs of malnutrition among the population. Teachers are forced to interrupt classes in the mornings because students, most of whom come to school without eating, lack energy to pay attention during lessons. Severe forms of malnutrition are mostly observed in children and lactating women, who are no more than “skin and bones.” Official figures on hunger-related deaths in the province are not available. However, cases of death are atypically more frequent, according to reports from civil society organizations in Djibo and other key informants, indicating that populations are experiencing Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) outcomes.


    In addition to national-level assumptions, the following assumptions apply to this area of concern:

    • Despite the increased FDS presence in the area, militant armed groups remain active, controlling population movements between the province's communes as well as the main supply routes. Because the armed groups have not yet achieved their objectives of territorial control, it is likely that the blockade will be maintained throughout the scenario period, including severe restrictions on population movement, trade, and humanitarian access. 
    • Restrictions on movement will significantly limit people's access to traditional sources of income, the main ones between February and June being gold mining and the collection and sale of wood and fodder. Similarly, the prolonged blockade will result in marginal household participation in agricultural activities during the upcoming season between July and September. 
    • Continued household destocking to cope with record high basic foodstuff prices will exacerbate the erosion of livestock assets for households that still have them. The erosion of livestock assets and the lack of demand for livestock labor after the departure of large-scale livestock producers means that these sources will not be available throughout the period. 
    • Households will continue to rely on informal networks to receive remittances from migrants, which will remain well below average. 
    • Due to continued terrorist threats, supplies to the markets in Djibo, Kelbo, and Arbinda are expected to remain dependent on FDS escorts. With the increase in the number of blockaded areas in the country, it is likely that supply delays will exceed three months and that repeated shortages will be observed between February and September, leading to a continuation of record high food prices (Figure 4).

    Figure 4

    Projection of the price of millet on the Djibo market
    Projection du prix du mil sur le marché de Djibo

    Source: FEWS NET avec données de SIM/SONAGESS

    • Detailed humanitarian food assistance plans were not provided to FEWS NET, but information available from humanitarian partners suggests that food assistance deliveries will continue during the projection period. However, based on trends over the past several months, government food assistance escorted by the FDS, and aerial distributions are expected to remain the primary modus operandi for assistance over the next few months and will be concentrated in the commune of Djibo for the most part. In addition, the ban on cash transfers to households will limit the response options for some humanitarian actors. Given the continued underfunding of programs, operational and security constraints, FEWS NET estimates that the volume of assistance for 2023 may be lower than in 2022 and that implementation times will be longer and more inconsistent.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    Asset erosion and movement restrictions mean that IDPs and host households will be unable to sustain their livelihoods, although relatively improved income from water sales is expected, as demand increases during the hot period between April and June. The proportion of poor households with no income who rely exclusively on assistance may increase across the province. These poor households will face increased consumption deficits indicative of Emergency (IPC Phase 4). Severe forms of malnutrition are likely to persist among children and pregnant or lactating women, and malnutrition-related deaths will continue. A small proportion of the population will likely have deficits in excess of 50 percent and will experience Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) outcomes between February and May. 

    Between June and September, no positive change is expected in asset erosion by poor IDPs and host households, particularly in the commune of Djibo. In Djibo, home to more than 70 percent of the province's population, households will continue to face severe erosion of subsistence assets and will not be able to cover the 2,100 kcal per person per day and expenses for essential non-food needs throughout the scenario period. However, they will be able to increase their consumption of gathered wild food products, which will be more available during the rainy season. Access to these products will mitigate worse outcomes, maintaining the large consumption deficits indicative of Emergency (IPC Phase 4). However, increased risk of waterborne diseases due to the rainy season and the precarious shelter conditions of IDPs are factors that will lead to an increase in cases of malnutrition and therefore an increased risk of death. 

    In Djibo, where the blockade of the town has persisted for a year, FEWS NET assesses that there is a risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5), given the high proportion of the population already facing acute food insecurity and the potential for a worsening of the already volatile security situation. While this is not the most likely scenario, in the event of an increase in attacks around the town of Djibo, this will limit the ability of households to engage in market gardening along the dam or leave town to harvest wild foods. Households will also be prevented from carrying out agricultural activities during the July to September rainy season. In this context, if the market is still not supplied and humanitarian assistance remains low or decreases further, poor IDPs and host households could experience complete consumption deficits and be exposed to starvation and death, facing Famine (IPC Phase 5).

    Yagha Province, Sahel Region, livelihood zone BFO7: North and east livestock and cereals (Figure 5)

    Current Situation

    Although the provinces of Yagha and Soum are in the same livelihood zone, they are not affected by the conflict in the same way. The conflict began earlier in Soum in 2016 and has led to greater displacement of people living there. The deteriorating security situation began to negatively impact livelihoods in Yagha in 2021. Until the blockade in June 2022, households, except those in the commune of Mansila, had limited access to their typical sources of income and food. Between October and December 2022, the province's main market, Sebba, was not supplied with food, and assistance remained low during the period. This contributed to the rapid deterioration of the assets of poor host households and IDPs.

    Since June 2022, militant armed groups have imposed a blockade on the communes of Sebba and Solhan. Most of the 21,495 IDPs (13 percent of the population) are from these two communes. Population movement remains limited, making trade with other communes in the province virtually impossible. However, the FDS and the Volunteers for the Defence of the Homeland (VDP) have inflicted significant casualties on militant armed groups since December 2022. This has enabled an expansion of the safety radius around the town of Sebba for the collection of wood and wild products. However, the communes of Sebba and Solhan remain under blockade. The other communes are under the control of militant armed groups, from which they continue to pose a threat.

    Figure 5

    Reference map for the area of concern: Yagha Province, Sahel Region, BFO7
    Carte de référence pour la zone concernée :   Yagha Province, Sahel Région, BFO7

    Source: FEWS NET

    Because of the blockade and threats by militant armed groups, people in the communes of Sebba and Solhan have been forced to abandon their fields. As a result, own-produced stocks do not exist in these communes. The market, food assistance, and gathered wild products, which are rare, are the main sources of food.

    Poor households typically derive about 80 percent of their income from livestock sales, the herding of livestock for better-off households, gold mining, and the sale of cowpea crops. Since the deterioration of the security situation from 2021 onwards, herd sizes have been considerably reduced by theft and the looting of livestock by militant armed groups, in addition to excessive livestock sales by households. According to local key informants, the province has lost 85 percent of its livestock. Households no longer have enough livestock and are forced to increase the sale of the remaining female animals. In addition, since the blockade in June 2022, movement has been restricted around the towns of Sebba and Sohan, such that agricultural activities have been very limited and gold mining sites are no longer accessible. The disruption in market supply has led to record high prices for staple foodstuffs since the lean season, and poor households are selling their few remaining livestock assets as a last resort. Current incomes are very low and come mostly from cash transfers and donations from relatives and friends living outside the province, the collection and sale of wood, the sale of drinking water, and begging. Cash transfers from NGOs, which used to be one of the main sources of income, have not been available since January due to the ban on such transfers by the authorities.

    The main market (Sebba) is supplied by convoys of goods under FDS escort on average once every three months. The last time Sebba received supplies by land was on January 3, 2023, although the population had been waiting since September 2022. Communes in the province along the border with Niger have stocks from own-production or informal flows from Niger but are unable to market them to other communes because of prohibitions imposed by militant armed groups. Last January, prices for staple cereals were up 84 percent for millet and 160 percent for sorghum compared to last year. Compared to the five-year average, the prices inceased 191 percent for millet and 235 percent for sorghum. The price of a liter of oil rose from 1,000 CFA francs in January 2022 to 2000 CFA francs in January 2023.

    The convoy on January 3, 2023, consisted of food from traders but also from the government, intended for free distribution. This distribution provided each household (host and IDP) with a 50 kg bag of cereals. In the commune of Mansila, 2,664 people benefited in January from food rations corresponding to 50 percent of their monthly needs. The distribution of cash to vulnerable households in December by NGOs enabled beneficiaries to purchase some food stocks during the market supply in early January. According to key informants, in the commune of Sebba, approximately 85 percent of IDPs and 30 percent of poor host households received assistance in January. This proportion appears to be high, as it reflects the carry-over of lean season programming that the government had been unable to deliver due to operational constraints, as well as taking into account redistribution by the population. Between October and December 2022, an average of 11 percent of the population received monthly cash or food assistance from humanitarian workers.

    Food assistance is thus the main source of food, as there are limited assets to purchase in markets. However, because of the long gap between supply deliveries, households prefer to limit portions and the number of meals consumed per day. Practices such as reducing adult consumption so that children can eat, increasing the number of days without food, begging, and atypical reliance on gathered products are more common, affecting at least 20 percent of the population in this area who face Emergency (IPC Phase 4) food insecurity. Key informants report visible signs of malnutrition among the host population and especially among IDPs and rare cases of malnutrition-related deaths.


    In addition to national-level assumptions, the following assumptions apply to this area of concern:

    • The establishment of a military base in the province has brought some calm to the town of Sebba and the surrounding area. However, movement remains limited, and the province remains under a blockade that has been in place since June 2022. However, armed groups remained active in other communes, particularly along the border with Niger. Threats and acts of violence by these groups could continue, maintaining the blockade in the province. 
    • The expansion of the security radius around the communes of Sebba and Solhan may allow some households to engage in agricultural activities during the upcoming June to September season. However, these households will not have access to all their fields. The same is true in other communes where militant armed groups are imposing movement restrictions.
    • Despite the significant loss of livestock assets, pressure on pasture and water points will remain due to threats of looting, resulting in herders having to reduce their movements. As a result, the pastoral lean season between February and June will be more difficult than usual. Livestock feeding conditions will improve between July and September following the regeneration of pastures in accessible areas. In addition, continued destocking by households to cope with record prices for staple foodstuffs will gradually help to reduce pressure on resources. 
    • No change in household income sources is expected. Income opportunities will remain low, as the continuing blockade and threats of violence by militant armed groups will limit gold mining activities and the collection and sale of wood and fodder. Reduced agricultural activities will limit the demand for agricultural labor. The continued destocking of livestock will contribute to further deterioration of household livelihoods.
    • The ongoing blockade will continue to limit the supply of markets from the usual source areas (notably the capital and the production areas West of the country). Shortages are likely to be frequent and food prices will remain atypically above their seasonal averages (Figure 6).
    • The government and WFP have planned food distributions in the province throughout the scenario period. However, this food assistance will be carried out by an escort or by air and is likely to be inconsistent, reaching less than 25 percent of the population as it has in previous months.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    Households in Solhan and Sebba are expected to continue to deplete their productive assets and coping strategies due to the continued blockade. Due to shortages and reduced market access, food assistance will be the main source of food for households, particularly poor households and IDPs. However, because food assistance is irregular and insufficient, households will continue to resort to extreme food restriction strategies, with an increase in the share of the population facing Emergency (IPC Phase 4) acute food insecurity between February and May. Deteriorating food consumption and limited access to malnutrition prevention and care services are likely to lead to an increase in malnutrition cases over the outlook period compared to the seasonal average.

    Between June and September, humanitarian assistance will remain the main source of food, as poor households will lack sufficient income to make purchases amid record prices. Increased availability of gathered products during the rainy season will prevent households from experiencing more extreme consumption gaps. Nevertheless, due to the inadequacy and inconsistency of assistance, households will continue to experience significant food deficits, with an increased number of people facing Emergency (IPC Phase 4) acute food insecurity. Cases of waterborne diseases, which typically increase during this period, could contribute to the increase in malnutrition and associated deaths.

    Recommended Citation: FEWS NET. Burkina Faso. Food Security Outlook February to September 2023: After a year-long blockade, the population of Djibo faces a risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5), 2023.

    To project food security outcomes, FEWS NET develops a set of assumptions about likely events, their effects, and the probable responses of various actors. FEWS NET analyzes these assumptions in the context of current conditions and local livelihoods to arrive at a most likely scenario for the coming eight months. Learn more here.

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