“Given that we had suspended activities in the area and the months of deprivation and violence suffered by Tougan’s inhabitants, we were expecting to find a very serious humanitarian situation,” says Moctar Abass, deputy head of MSF operations in Burkina Faso. “The evidence of the deterioration in the children’s nutrition status confirmed our fears.”
Working in partnership with Burkina Faso’s health authorities, MSF is now preparing to ramp up the provision of treatment for malnourished children in Tougan. This will include supporting community health workers and activities in health centres, and increasing bed capacity to admit and treat the sickest children. Drugs and stocks of ready-to-use therapeutic foods have also been flown in to assist Ministry of Health staff who remain in the area.
Around 36,000 displaced people are sheltering in Tougan in a country, which, according to the statistics provided by the national commission charged with registering refugees, is already hosting more than 2 million."
“People in Tougan tell us that they’re unable to cultivate their fields outside the town, that they are almost entirely reliant on military convoys for food,” says Abass. “Sadly, their situation is not unique. We have every reason to believe that other towns and villages that are also surrounded may be enduring similar degrees of a malnutrition crisis.”
Since early 2023, people in Boucle du Mouhoun have been caught between the fighting and attacks that have intensified in a region that, up until then, had been less affected than the Est, Centre-Nord and Sahel regions by the conflict opposing Burkina Faso’s security forces and armed groups. Armed groups across the country have been using a brutal modus operandi to surround and cut off dozens of towns. The inhabitants of neighbouring villages are ordered to leave, attacked – and sometimes even massacred. Mines and other explosive devices are laid out around towns and no one is allowed in or out of the town the armed groups are targeting. Vehicles are checked and anyone daring to defy their orders is aggressed. Very quickly, food, drugs and basic necessities run out, food prices shoot up and getting food in relies heavily on military convoys and humanitarian aid.