Burkina Faso: the world’s most neglected crisis

Farmers in Burkina Faso, 2012
Farmers in Burkina Faso, 2012. Photo: Tristan Armstrong, AusAID/Creative Commons Attribution 2.0

For the first time, Burkina Faso tops the list of the world’s most neglected displacement crises, according to a new report from the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC). Redirection of aid and attention towards Ukraine has increased neglect of some of the world’s most vulnerable people.

The annual list of neglected displacement crises is based on three criteria: lack of humanitarian funding, lack of media attention, and a lack of international political and diplomatic initiatives. The crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo ranks second, having appeared first or second on the list every year since its inception seven years ago. Colombia, Sudan, and Venezuela follow in this grim ranking.

“Neglect is a choice – that millions of displaced people are cast aside year after year without the support and resources they so desperately need is not inevitable,” said Jan Egeland, NRC’s Secretary General.

Same humanity as in Ukraine needed

“The powerful response to the suffering inflicted by the war in Ukraine demonstrated what the world can deliver for people in need. Political action for Ukrainians has been impactful and swift, borders kept open, funding plenty, and media coverage extensive. Those in power need to show the same humanity towards people affected by crises in places such as Burkina Faso and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.”

More than five times more articles were written about the Ukrainian displacement crisis last year than about all the world’s ten most neglected crises in total. For every dollar raised per person in need in Ukraine in 2022, just 25 cents were raised per person in need across the world’s ten most neglected crises.

The repeated warnings of increased disparity due to the reallocation of resources to the Ukraine response have now become reality. The redirection of a large amount of aid money towards Ukraine and towards hosting refugees in donor countries means that many crises have seen a drop in assistance, despite growing needs. Total aid to Africa, where we find seven out of the ten most neglected crises, was 34 billion USD in 2022, representing a drop of 7.4 per cent compared to 2021.

Ukraine crisis: food insecurity

The Ukraine crisis also contributed to an increase in food insecurity in many of the countries featured in the report, worsening already dire crises, and increasing the number of people in need.

“The world has failed to support the most vulnerable, but this can be reversed. The lives of millions of people suffering in silence can improve, if funding and resources are allocated based on need, not geopolitical interest, and media headlines of the day,” said Egeland. “Last year the gap between what was needed and what was delivered in humanitarian assistance was 22 billion USD. This is a huge sum of money, but no more than Europeans spend on ice cream a year. We need donors to increase support and new donor countries to step up to share responsibility.”

2 million displaced

Burkina Faso’s decline since the crisis broke out five years ago has been swift and devastating. More than 2 million people have been forced to flee their homes, and nearly a quarter of the population now requires humanitarian aid. Across the country, 800,000 people are living in areas under blockade by armed groups where they have no access to even basic services. The situation is increasingly dire with some people forced to eat leaves to survive.

“We must do more to end the suffering in Burkina Faso before despair becomes entrenched and it is added to the growing list of protracted crises. That this crisis is already so deeply neglected shows a failure of the international system to react to newly emerging crises, as it also fails those lost in the shadows for decades. Ultimately, greater investment in diplomatic solutions is needed if we hope to pull crises off this list,” said Egeland.

  • Each year, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) publishes a list of the ten most neglected displacement crises in the world. The purpose is to focus on the plight of people whose suffering rarely makes international headlines, who receive no or inadequate assistance, and who never become the centre of attention for international diplomacy efforts.  The report is available here.