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In Burkina Faso, terrorism and COVID-19 -‘a disaster within a disaster’- pose a double threat

Representatives of three Catholic dioceses of Dori, Kaya and Fada N’Gourma—all of which have been gravely impacted by Islamist terrorism—were in agreement that “the gravity of the situation is unchanged, and indeed in some places even worse” than before the pandemic, with almost a million people left homeless and a total absence of any effective response from either national or international authorities.


For those directly affected by consistent terrorist attacks in northern and eastern Burkina Faso, the coronavirus is “a disaster within a disaster,” sources told Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

In the department of Bourzanga (central northern region) and Djibo (Sahel region), attacks are continuing on a daily basis. Entire regions have been cut off—not because of the lockdown resulting from the pandemic, but because of the total lack of insecurity. The few still inhabited towns and villages are now sheltering thousands of internally displaced people.

This is particularly true of the town of Djibo, which has been cut off by terrorist attacks since mid-January this year (2020). According to ACN’s sources, “there is no transport, no food supplies, no possibility of entering or leaving the town. There is a shortage of water, vehicle fuel and food, frequent electricity cuts and so forth.”

According to the national emergency relief and rehabilitation agency CONASUR (Conseil National de Secours d’Urgence et de Réhabilitation), there are close to 150,000 internally displaced people now living in Djibo, while the town of Arbinda, which is similarly blockaded, is sheltering some 60,000 internally displaced people. These two towns are the last remaining enclaves of life in the region, and the last remaining protective barrier for thousands of people threatened by the terrorist occupation.

Generally speaking, most people feel helpless in the face of this evil, and “all the more so at this time when all the emphasis is on the coronavirus pandemic, forgetting that terrorism is causing as many and indeed more victims than COVID-19,” the priest explains.

For almost five years now, Burkina Faso has been suffering this unprecedented wave of terrorism. According to the information obtained by ACN, the number of internally displaced people has reached almost one million. Since last year more than 1,000 people have been killed—including Christians, members of traditional African religions, Muslims and soldiers.

Thirteen priests and 193 community leaders, or pastoral coordinators, have been forced to leave their parishes and take refuge in other parishes that are still safe for the time being. At least eight parishes had to be closed and seven religious communities belonging to different congregations have had to flee to safer places.

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