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IRIN - Burkina Faso





 



The Grinch’s not-so-festive guide to food ration cuts

Tue, 27 Dec 2016 15:17:50 +0000

Across much of the world, the festive season is a time of indulgence. But what if you’re too busy fleeing violence and upheaval, or stuck in a refugee camp on reduced rations? It’s been a hard year for the most vulnerable among us. This is partly due to tightening aid budgets, but it’s also the result of there simply being so many more people in crisis who need help. “It's not just a question of falling donor funding; most donors have continued to be generous, providing funds at relatively consistent levels for years,” World Food Programme spokeswoman Challiss McDonough told IRIN.  “But the number of [those in need] is much larger.” A prime example is Uganda, where 602,000 South Sudanese refugees are sheltering. As a result of the conflict in neighbouring South Sudan, “we are now supporting nearly twice as many refugees as we were just six months ago”, explained McDonough. WFP, as the global emergency food responder, is feeling the strain. “I'd say there are probably very few countries where we have not had to make some kind of adjustment to our assistance plans because of a lack of funding,” said McDonough. The following is a not-so-festive guide to where WFP has been forced to make cuts to already minimal food rations in Africa. It includes some non-refugee national programmes, which have also been impacted by funding shortfalls. allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="400" id="datawrapper-chart-eFGRg" mozallowfullscreen="mozallowfullscreen" msallowfullscreen="msallowfullscreen" oallowfullscreen="oallowfullscreen" src="//datawrapper.dwcdn.net/eFGRg/1/" webkitallowfullscreen="webkitallowfullscreen" width="100%"> Burkina Faso Rations have been reduced and cash assistance suspended for the 31,000 Malian refugees in Burkina Faso. As a result, about a quarter of refugees do not have enough food to meet their basic nutritional needs. “Most refugees in the camps depend solely on humanitarian assistance to survive,” said WFP country director Jean-Charles Dei. “When assistance is interrupted or insufficient, the food security and nutrition situation dramatically deteriorate, especially for women, children, and elderly people.” Burundi Lack of funding has impacted a range of activities targeting vulnerable communities. Food-for-training for Congolese refugees and Burundian migrants expelled from Tanzania and Rwanda has been suspended. The number of children reached through an anti-stunting campaign has been reduced by 70 percent, with the programme halted entirely in Ruramvya and Rutana provinces. Cameroon Monthly food rations for Central African Republic refugees in Cameroon was cut by 50 percent in November and December. The 150,000 refugees are entirely dependent on international aid. In May, WFP also halted its meals programme to 16 primary schools in northern Cameroon due to a lack of funding. Central African Republic WFP has been unable to assist more than 500,000 people in urgent need of aid and has been forced to halve the amount of food it has provided to those it can reach. Emergency school meals have been suspended in the capital, Bangui, and rations to displaced people in the violence-hit central town of Kaga Bandoro have been slashed by 75 percent. “WFP needs to urgently mobilise flexible contributions to cover for distributions from January onwards,” the agency has warned. Chad For the past two years, refugees in Chad have survived on monthly rations well below the minimum requirement. For some, the cuts have been by as much as 60 percent. A joint assessment released in November by WFP and the UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR, found more than 40 percent of the 400,000 refugees in Chad are malnourished and the majority of children are anaemic. Ethiopia Since November 2015, ration cuts have affected more than 760,000 refugees, the bulk of them from South Sudan and Somalia. Although there was an improvement in general food rations from June this year, UNHCR has warned that households still face difficulties. The cuts have, in particular, af[...]



Is Ivory Coast attack the new normal?

Mon, 14 Mar 2016 14:59:00 +0000

The attacks that killed 16 people yesterday at a beach resort in Cote d’Ivoire were shocking and brutal, but not entirely unexpected. Security experts had been warning that al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) was a growing threat outside its traditional stronghold in northern Mali. The group, and its affiliate al-Mourabitoun, claimed responsibility for attacks that killed 30 people in Burkina Faso’s capital, Ouagadougou, in January, and 21 people in the Malian capital, Bamako, in November. In a comprehensive briefing last month, IRIN found the two attacks likely to be the beginning of a trend that would continue in 2016. See: Briefing: The new jihadist strategy in the Sahel   Authorities in Cote d’Ivoire were well aware of the threat and had prevented several attacks recently, said William Assanvo of the Institute for Security Studies, a South African think tank. But there’s only so much they can do to prevent attacks that do not require sophisticated planning and are relatively easy to carry out. “You can’t have security personnel everywhere at every time,” he said on the phone from the Senegalese capital, Dakar. In a statement posted to social media in Arabic, Spanish, French and English, AQIM said three of its members “were able to storm the tourist resort” in Grand Bassam in south-eastern Cote d’Ivoire, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors extremist groups. The Ivorian government said six gunmen killed 14 civilians and two soldiers at the popular resort area, a UNESCO World Heritage Site about 40 km east of Abidjan, the country’s largest city and commercial capital. The United States and France have offered to help with the investigation. The best bet to prevent future attacks is better intelligence gathering, Assanvo said. But he warned that such attacks are likely to reoccur in the region as AQIM aims to expand its influence outside of northern Mali. “Now the threat is permanent,” he said. Here are some key take-aways from IRIN’s in-depth look at the recent spread of AQIM and its affiliates in West Africa: Militant groups are working together. The Burkina Faso attack was carried out by a group called al-Mourabitoun, which had pledged allegiance to AQIM.   AQIM has changed tactics from attempting to hold territory in Mali to flexing its muscles regionally and attacking countries collaborating with the West, particularly the US and France, which have military operations in West Africa. Ivory Coast is a strong ally of France and home to a logistical base for French forces.   AQIM has its roots in an insurrection against the French-backed military of Algeria, which annulled the election victory of the Islamic Salvation Front in 1992. Militants later took shelter in northern Mali, where the government had little control.   In addition to using an extreme interpretation of Islam to motivate its recruits, AQIM taps into discontent amongst poor, local communities resentful of rich and corrupt political leaders, and distrustful of Western countries.   Leaders of Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Chad and Burkina Faso have formed the G5, a regional organisation to strengthen cooperation on development and security in the Sahel. But they have been criticized for prioritizing border security over the provision of social services, the lack of which is thought to fuel militancy. jf/ha Maradi, Niger.A formation of Nigerien soldiers from the 322nd Parachute Regiment march to a training site where they will learn combat skills from U.S. Army soldiers from 1st Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) home-based in Stuttgart, Germany News Conflict Is Ivory Coast attack the new normal? IRIN West Africa Burkina Faso Côte d’Ivoire Mali Français [...]



Briefing: The new Jihadist strategy in the Sahel

Thu, 04 Feb 2016 00:00:00 +0000

Security has been intense over the last few weeks in the Senegalese capital, Dakar, with police and soldiers on the streets, vehicle searches, and round-ups of alleged Islamist militants. It’s the response to the al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) attack in Burkina Faso on 15 January that left 30 people dead. Until the assault on the Cappuccino restaurant and the Splendid Hotel, next door on Ouagadougou’s trendy Kwame Nkrumah Avenue, Burkina Faso, like Senegal, felt safe from the jihadist violence that has destabilised other countries in the region. “We thought we were not really concerned by terrorism, that we were shielded by our armed forces and our diplomacy,” Ousmane Ouedraogo told IRIN outside his cellphone shop on Kwame Nkrumah Avenue. “But now we know we are vulnerable.” That vulnerability stems from the political instability in Burkina Faso following the youth-led toppling of Blaise Campaore after nearly three decades in power.  But there is a more fundamental fragility that has its roots in the legitimacy and authority of governments across the Sahel region, which AQIM, AQIM-linked groups, and, more recently, the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS) are seeking to exploit. The Burkina Faso attack was carried out by the militant group al-Mourabitoun, which had recently pledged allegiance to AQIM. The targets were popular with Western aid workers, businessmen, and soldiers serving with Operation Barkhane, France’s regional counter-insurgency mission. The raid put together a team of young men based in Mali (AQIM named three but there are suggestions three escaped); at least one of the identified men seems to have been Fulani – a pastoralist ethnic group that spans West Africa; and their cars had Niger license plates. It was, then, a fine example of regional militant integration.  It followed an earlier al-Mourabitoun attack in November that killed 21 people at the Radisson Blu Hotel in the Malian capital, Bamako. It’s a fairly safe prediction that these two events are the beginning of a trend that will continue in 2016. “Three years ago, AQIM’s plan was to hold territory in northern Mali. That has changed,” Jean-Hervé Jezequel, the senior Sahel analyst at the International Crisis Group, told IRIN. “The new strategy is that instead of managing territory, they want to show they can impact a much larger area by attacking the capitals of countries collaborating with Western forces.” Why should Senegal worry? The heightened security in Dakar is a recognition of how tempting a target it is. It’s the regional base of scores of international organisations. Senegal is a pro-Western partner, especially of France and the United States, and Dakar has provided troops to the French-backed African Union military intervention in Mali. More than 500 people have been picked up in the current crackdown.   Photo: Edgar Mwakaba/IRIN The spread of militancy There is ample evidence of Senegalese recruitment to various jihadist causes. Senegalese are among IS forces in Libya; a small group of Wolof speakers (an almost exclusively Senegalese language) were believed to have fought alongside Islamist militants in northern Mali; men speaking Wolof were among the kidnappers of Canadian diplomat Robert Fowler in Niger in 2008; young militants from the large Senegalese diaspora are believed to be with IS in Syria; and there have been periodic arrests of individuals, most recently four activists detained for alleged ties to Nigeria’s IS-linked Boko Haram.  But Senegal is also a traditionally tolerant and democratic society. Although 90-percent Muslim, for the first 20 years of independence it was ruled by a still well-regarded Catholic president, Léopold Senghor. Four popular and powerful Sufi brotherhoods dominate religious practice. The brotherhoods have been described as the gatekeepers between the people and the state, conferring legitimacy on the latter. Salafism, a more conservative literal interpretation of Islam, is growing in[...]



AQIM incident map

Fri, 15 Jan 2016 00:00:00 +0000

This is a quick map of conflict events attributed to AQIM from 2007-2015, compiled from the ACLED dataset. Search by location, click a dot for event details.

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(image) Millet preparation in Bandiagara, Mopti Region of Mali. The crop has been hit by a succession of poor harvests. Ben Parker Maps and Graphics Conflict Human Rights LONDON IRIN Africa West Africa Burkina Faso Chad Mali Mauritania Niger Senegal Libya Algeria



Africa’s meningitis A vaccine: how partnership replaced ‘Big Pharma’

Tue, 17 Nov 2015 00:00:00 +0000

Four years after it was first used in a mass vaccination campaign, the MenAfriVac vaccine has achieved an extraordinary outcome; cases of meningitis A have dropped to almost zero in the epidemic belt across Africa. But if it hadn’t been for an experimental partnership between the World Health Organization and the not-for-profit health organisation, PATH – working without the involvement of multinational pharmaceutical companies – the vaccine might never even have been developed. Outbreak season in the so-called meningitis belt across the Sahel starts annually in late December. Every 10 or 15 years, conditions come together to set off a major epidemic. In 1996-7, there were more than 250,000 reported cases; more than 25,000 people died, and many more were left with permanent disabilities. After that epidemic, African governments came together and demanded that something be done. More specifically they wanted an effective, affordable vaccine that could be rolled out across the region. The problem: there wasn’t one. The only vaccines available were tailored to the strains common in Europe and North America, not to Meningitis A, which caused the epidemics in West Africa. They were also far too expensive for a mass campaign in the region. As ever, the problem was money. Meningitis A affected poor people in the poorest regions of some of the poorest countries in the world. For global health specialists, this is a sadly familiar problem. Mogha Kamal-Yanni, senior health advisor at Oxfam, says the situation is typical. “Clearly the current model of research and development is not working,” she told IRIN. “It's a broken model, failing public health. It's not producing what we need, or else it's unaffordable.” The unwillingness of pharmaceutical companies to invest in a disease that affects the poor has been widely blamed for the lack of a vaccine against Ebola, which seriously hampered the response to the recent outbreak in West Africa. But this time, in response to the appeal from African governments, the WHO and PATH set up the Meningitis Vaccine Project with the objective of getting a vaccine approved and into production. With $70 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to oil the wheels, they began by approaching the big pharmaceutical companies. “That was the accepted approach at that time,” says the project manager, Kathleen Tiffay. “And that was what people expected.” Negotiations, however, soon stalled. Two big companies were interested, but finally, after 18 months of negotiations, they said they couldn't bring the price down below $2 a dose; the project's target was 'under 50 cents'. Discussions with another company, which owned technology needed to produce the vaccine, also collapsed, again over pricing. “There was just too big a gap,” says Tiffay. That – she told IRIN – was the low point. “We had hoped we could have it set up and ready to go in a year or a year and half. Everything was taking much longer than our estimates.” Finally, those behind the Meningitis Vaccine Project decided to go ahead and do it themselves. “And to be realistic,” says Tiffay, “we weren't any slower than Big Pharma; in fact we were probably faster.” They describe what they did as setting up a kind of virtual pharmaceutical company. While the big established companies could have done everything in-house, they had to put together a series of partnerships – to supply the ingredients, license the technology, do the clinical trials and get all necessary approvals, and to manufacture the vaccine. Some partners, like the manufacturer, the Serum Institute of India Ltd (SIIL), were commercial companies. Others were public bodies. The US Food and Drug Administration licensed a conjugation method at negligible cost and supported transfer of the technology to the Indian company. Britain's National Institute for Biological Standards and Control worked on the licensing. The clinical t[...]



Burkina Faso: ‘There must be justice’

Thu, 15 Oct 2015 23:00:00 +0000

There can be no amnesty for any members of Burkina Faso’s elite presidential guard found to be responsible for the deaths of 14 unarmed civilians and the wounding of hundreds more in the days following the 16 September coup. This is the message human rights groups and the Burkinabe people want heard loud and clear now that the country is back on the path of democratic transition. For ordinary civilians, the presidential guard, known as the RSP, has long been seen as its own private army, the enemy of the people, stalling progress, committing abuses and protecting the elite. Roger Kabore, a mason in Ouagadougou, told IRIN he was so angry he was ready to go into the barracks and “flush the guards out with his own hands.” “We’ve had enough with these guys,” he said. “They have harmed this country too many times and now we must try them for all that they did.” Kabore also called for former president Blaise Compaore – who set up the RSP but was overthrown in a popular uprising last October after seeking to extend his 27-year term – to face trial as well, so the country could move forward peacefully. Shot in the back According to recent investigations by Amnesty International, at least six of the 14 latest victims were shot in the back while trying to flee after members of the RSP opened fire on peaceful demonstrations in the capital. Among the dead were two children.  Many of those wounded, including a pregnant woman who gave birth to a baby boy with a bullet wound on his buttocks, were hit by stray bullets while hiding out in their homes.  “What we saw time and time again was that demonstrators would protest with their arms in the air to show their lack of intent,” said Steve Cockburn, Amnesty’s deputy regional director for West and Central Africa, explaining that the RSP is then alleged to have chased them down and fired into crowds, pursuing people into populated areas, where bystanders were injured and killed. Other victims were simply beaten or whipped.  “The patterns of abuse that we saw this time around show clearly they were not doing a legitimate policing function,” Cockburn told IRIN. “They were not trying to use non-lethal means to control the crowd.” A history of violence and impunity Earlier this year, an Amnesty report detailed how the RSP committed similar atrocities during the demonstrations that led to the ousting of Compaore in 2014. “So this is a clear pattern of violation that is extremely important but also not new, and shows us that to prevent abuse to the people themselves, we need to get to the bottom of what happened and hold those responsible accountable,” Cockburn said. The transitional government announced in early September that it planned to investigate the alleged shootings of civilians by the RSP last October and November, as well as the 1987 assassination of revolutionary icon and former president Thomas Sankara, whose murder, along with 12 other officials, was part of a coup organised by Compaore. But two weeks after the announcement that the RSP would be investigated, the latest coup attempt happened. On 28 September, the transitional authorities created another Commission of Inquiry to bring the leaders of the coup to justice, but they made no mention of the earlier investigations into the RSP members. In an initial effort to restore peace and order, and dissolve the RSP once and for all, many of its 1,300 members have since been reintegrated into the national army. A necessary compromise? Perhaps. However, if the RSP guards who committed crimes are not held accountable, they could continue to pose a threat to civilians. “Burkina Faso has a very significant history for many years of brushing over security forces and allowing impunity to continue to fester,” Cockburn said. “And it’s that lack of impunity and accountability that led security forces to go out into the streets and shoot civilians, because [...]



Is Burkina Faso’s elite guard still a threat?

Wed, 30 Sep 2015 23:00:00 +0000

Burkina Faso’s interim government adopted a decree last week dissolving the Presidential Security Regiment, which mounted a short-lived coup two weeks ago. But despite promises to disarm and subsequent interventions by the army, some RSP members still refuse to give up their weapons, leaving many to wonder if the elite force will continue to pose a threat to the transition to democracy. Ever since long-term president Blaise Compaoré was ousted after the popular uprising on 30 and 31 October 2014, democracy advocates have wrestled with the troublesome issue of demilitarising politics. The armed forces have maintained almost exclusive control over the political scene since 1966, which is to say 49 of the 55 years since Burkina Faso gained independence in 1960. The RSP, which was created in 1995, officially became “a large unit attached to the national army and at the disposition of the president” in July 2000, but is still thought of by most as an “army within the army,” or a body of troops loyal to and recruited by Compaoré.  It is therefore unsurprising that the RSP remains a major concern for the stakeholders of transition. Following repeated calls from the general public, the National Reconciliation and Reform Commission (CRNR) submitted its general report to the prime minister on 15 September, officially recommending the RSP’s dissolution.  Unfortunately, the actions of members of the RSP – two disruptions of the transition, the constant noise of intervention threats and finally the 16 September coup – have not helped calm people’s fears about the regiment. Following the intervention of the regular army to enforce the 25 September dissolution decree, however, one can confidently say that the RSP no longer constitutes a threat to the transition of Burkina Faso.  Indeed, absent a dramatic turnaround, the same forces that foiled the coup – the general population, the national army and pressure from the regional and international community – will always be there.  The RSP is regarded as a professional and well-trained outfit, but, once disarmament is complete, its members will no longer have the equipment necessary to threaten actions that could sabotage the transitional process once again underway in Burkina Faso. Moving forward Nonetheless, it remains important to pay attention to a number of factors if the transition and post-transition phases are to proceed without further disruption.  Firstly, we must ensure that members of the RSP, except those who need to be held to account for past actions, are reintegrated as quickly as possible into the national army. This will ensure that rather than finding themselves with no prospects, former RSP soldiers will still have a purpose. This will also enable the army to take advantage of the capabilities and competence of this elite corps, which most agree contains some of the highest quality personnel within the security forces.  Secondly, after helping to ensure that the RSP has been totally dismantled, we must ensure that the army returns to barracks so the transition to control by civilian government can be completed. This must be done while ensuring that the army has the necessary means to ensure safety throughout the country. It must then help promote the integration of former members of the RSP into the regular army without finger-pointing or score-settling. Finally, the people of Burkina Faso need to be listened to. They have already shown their strength and their ability to resist all attempts to challenge the transition, so they will remain a key driver of future events.  While this power has proved beneficial, it comes with great responsibility. Both the authorities, and those who wish to help them, must work together in search of solutions to future challenges while respecting the rules. This will include taking any disputes that arise in the lead-up to the upcoming electio[...]



The rocky road to democracy in Burkina Faso

Mon, 21 Sep 2015 23:00:00 +0000

A coup, a counter-coup, a stand-off, a missed ultimatum to lay down weapons: the uncertain situation in Burkina Faso is developing quickly and no one knows how it will end. After the army marched into the capital of Ouagadougou overnight to demand that the presidential guard disarm, regional mediators are gathering today at an ECOWAS summit in Nigeria to discuss the details of an accord aimed at ending the post-coup crisis and restoring the country to civilian rule. It was the elite 1,300-strong presidential guard, known as the RSP, who set off the crisis by overthrowing the interim government last week and kidnapping transitional President Michel Kafando. They were unhappy at a law banning candidates who had supported former president Blaise Compaoré from running in elections to find a new leader slated for next month. Compaoré was overthrown in a popular revolution last October as he tried to amend the constitution to extend his 27 years in power. Proposals from Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) mediators call for the reinstatement of Kafando as well as the continuation of the electoral process and the transition to democratic rule. However, they also include more controversial items such as granting amnesty to those involved in the coup. There is also no offer of compensation to the families of the 13 people killed or more than 100 people injured in the ensuing crackdown. “When you look at all the suggestions from this ECOWAS protocol, you feel like they just gave everything to the coup-makers,” Mathias Hounkpe of the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) told IRIN. “There are still a few questions that need to be answered clearly and I can understand why people are feeling betrayed.”  Boukari Ouedragogo, a trader in the capital Ouagadougou, told IRIN: “I am very angry. How can they give amnesty to the putschists (coup-makers) after they have killed people and thrown our country into disorder? It is not right.” General Gilbert Diendéré, the former right-hand man of Compaoré who led the coup and is the self-appointed president of the junta’s National Council of Democracy (CND), said on Monday evening that he plans to step down and return the country to civilian rule. As a gesture of good faith, he released Yacouba Isaac Zida, prime minister of the interim government and former RSP leader, who had been held hostage since the coup. Photo: Zoumana Wonogo/IRIN General Gilbert Diendere, president of the National Council for Democracy, a new party that declared itself the governing authority in Burkina Faso following last week's coup by the RSP, has promised to hand over power to civilian rule. It remains unclear, however, which parties will sign what, if anything, at Tuesday’s meeting in the Nigerian capital, Abuja. “They [these terms] have clearly been proposed by ECOWAS mediation, but the opposition we are seeing from the transitional authorities and from the political parties from the former opposition and from the civil society will make it very, very hard to be implemented and particularly to have amnesty implemented,” said William Assanvo, a senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies (ISS). But OSIWA’s Hounkpe said that getting the coup-makers to agree to anything without an amnesty clause would be a challenge. “It’s not easy to ask coup leaders to hand over themselves and go to trial,” he said. “So most of the time it is necessary to give them something. But you also need a mechanism to guarantee that they will not come back again. If they just walk away and remain with the same strength, the same equipment and everything, they may just come back after the election, which is a threat to the transition.”  Underlying causes It appears that the catalyst for the coup may have been the final report by the Commission on National Reconciliation an[...]



The lost childhoods behind our chocolate

Mon, 24 Aug 2015 23:00:00 +0000

Twelve-year-old Arouna* stands shirtless in a cocoa field in southwestern Côte d’Ivoire holding a hoe, his ribs clearly visible under his dark skin. “I have to get up very early each day to be the first in the field with my younger brother, aged 10, to start clearing [the land],” he told IRIN. “I’m so tired.” Arouna, who was born across the border in neighbouring Burkina Faso, was sent to Côte d’Ivoire’s Sassandra village eight months ago to join his father and his father’s second wife, who needed help – in the form of free labour – cultivating cocoa.   He told IRIN he thought he was coming to Côte d’Ivoire to continue his studies. But upon arrival, Arouna was taken into the forest and subjected to hard, manual labour in the cocoa fields each day. He has yet to step foot inside a classroom. Côte d’Ivoire continues to show signs of economic and social recovery following a 2010-2011 political crisis, which left 3,000 dead and 500,000 displaced, but stories like Arouna’s are becoming more and more common. As peace and security have improved, the number of people willing to cross the border – and send their children – to work in Ivoirian cocoa fields is on the rise.  Between 2009 and 2014, the number of children involved in hazardous work in cocoa production in West Africa increased by 46 percent, according to recent research by the US-based Tulane University.  The estimated number of child labourers in Cote d’Ivoire has more than doubled, from 800,000 pre-crisis to 1.62 million now, according to a joint investigation by UNICEF and the Ivoirian government. The vast majority come either from abroad – Mali, Burkina Faso and Togo – or from the poorer, rural parts of Côte d’Ivoire in the north and centre of the country. A growing problem More than 70 percent of the world’s cocoa supply comes from Côte d’Ivoire and neighbouring Ghana. The market price for cocoa beans has fallen sharply since the 1980s and local farmers have increasingly turned to the practice of recruiting children to work the fields. Much of the recent increase in child labour in Côte d’Ivoire’s cocoa fields came in 2011, following the end of the country’s post-election crisis, when Burkinabe farmers – traditionally a significant part of the sector – once again felt safe enough to come and work their fields.   “Over the past four years there has been a strong migration of people from countries like Burkina Faso into Ivoirian forests,” said Maxime M’bra, head of Stop Child Trafficking, a local NGO that fights against child labour.  More than half the child labourers in Côte d’Ivoire work in agriculture, with as many as one million children being exploited within the cocoa sector, according to the International Cocoa Foundation Initiative (ICI).  While the majority of these children are officially “employed” by their parents, an estimated 10.9 percent are victims of cross-border human trafficking, according to UNICEF.  “Despite significant efforts by the government, including educating families about the dangers of child labour and requiring all children between the ages of six and 16 to attend school, child labour and poverty is still rampant in the cocoa plantations of Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana,” the International Labour Rights Forum (ILRF) has said.    See: Efforts too small to curb child labour on cocoa farms Government efforts Forced child labour is technically illegal in Côte d’Ivoire, with penalties ranging from one to five years in jail and between $800 and $2,200 in fines. But the reality is that the law is rarely enforced and prosecutions are almost unheard of. The US State Department says Côte d’Ivoire fails to fully comply with the “minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.” Since 2013, the country has invested an estimated [...]



Avian flu threatens West Africa poultry farmers

Mon, 22 Jun 2015 23:00:00 +0000

Naba Guigma, from Burkina Faso’s Boulkiemdé province, southwest of the capital Ouagadougou, watched helplessly as his chickens and guinea fowl began to die off one by one. His very livelihood – like that of the millions of other poultry farmers across West Africa – faces ruin. “At first we thought it was (the) Newcastle (virus), a routine poultry disease, and so we rushed to sell some of them,” Guigma told IRIN.   In less than two weeks, all 120 of his birds were dead.  Now I have no more poultry. The henhouse is empty. That was in April. Come June, some 1.7 million birds in five countries had succumbed to what had by then been diagnosed as the highly contagious and deadly H5N1 strain of avian flu. The strain hasn’t been seen in the region since 2008, but was confirmed in Nigeria in January and has since spread to Niger, Cote d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso and Ghana. Guigma used to sell between 80 and 100 chickens a month, which together with egg sales earned him between $415 and $515.  “That was our main activity for revenue,” he told IRIN. “Now I have no more poultry. The henhouse is empty.” The poultry sector has grown tremendously in West Africa over the last 10 years and is now a main source of income for many rural, small-scale farmers. In Cote d’Ivoire, for example, the sector increased by more than 70 percent between 2006 and 2015, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).  The FAO and regional governments are still assessing the extent and impact of the outbreak but are clearly extremely concerned. “I think we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg,” FAO Chief Veterinary Officer Juan Lubroth told IRIN. “I have sufficient information to be worried and insufficient information to be at ease.” In Burkina Faso, farmers across nine of the country's 13 regions have been affected by avian flu since April. Around 215,000 birds have died. With each selling for about $10, this amounts to more than $2 million in direct losses, with poultry farmers and local merchants bearing the brunt of them.  Burkina Faso’s Ministry of Animal Resources estimates that direct and indirect losses due to the virus could amount to more than six million dollars this year.  Loss and more loss In an attempt to stop the outbreak, any bird – even healthy ones – within a three-kilometre radius of an infected animal, is now being confiscated and incinerated by government agents. The Ministry of Animal Resources says it has destroyed more than 16,000 birds and 166,000 eggs since April. Burkina Faso’s Ministry of Trade says it has disbursed close to $100,000 in compensation. It initially offered around $2 per head of culled poultry, but has since doubled this to nearly $4 as an incentive to farmers to own up about their sick birds.  But the amount they are offering is still far less than what a farmer could sell a chicken for at market, depending on its size, colour and overall health.   To avoid such a loss, many farmers have begun hiding their sick birds, hoping to still sell them, according to local veterinarians tasked with killing the infected birds.  This year will be terrible for me. During the lean period, I can sell a chicken for up to $15, but now I lost all my savings and it is a desperate situation. While the compensation programme has helped some farmers partially recoup their losses, Guigma, like many other early victims of the outbreak, will not receive anything from the government.   Only farmers who allowed their sick birds to be killed by government agents once the outbreak was declared will be paid. Nothing is paid for birds that died early on or that died before being formally identified as infected. Pedi Nana, for example, received just $22 for the loss of his entire flock, around 45 guinea fowl and 50 chickens in[...]