Exclusive-US to provide nearly $55 million in humanitarian aid for Burkina Faso

FILE PHOTO: A child and bicycle-riding woman are pictured at a camp for internally displaced people (IDPs) in Kaya

By Daphne Psaledakis

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States will provide nearly $55 million to address a dire humanitarian crisis in Burkina Faso, U.S. aid chief Samantha Power will announce on Thursday, according to a statement seen by Reuters.

The aid will address emergency food and nutrition needs as well as other support, Power said. The funds will bring the U.S. Agency for International Development's total emergency aid to Burkina Faso to nearly $158 million since the beginning of fiscal-year 2023.

"Growing conflict and a dire humanitarian crisis in Burkina Faso is unfolding in communities cut off from the world’s view," Power said in the statement.

"Widespread violence and attacks on civilians and critical infrastructure have driven mass displacement and disrupted essential services, leaving approximately 6.3 million Burkinabe – nearly a third of the country’s population – in need of urgent aid this year."

Burkina Faso is one of several nations in Africa's Sahel region struggling to contain Islamist insurgencies linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State that have killed thousands and displaced millions.

Frustrations over authorities' failure to protect civilians have contributed to two coups in Mali, two in Burkina Faso and one in Niger since 2020. The current military rulers in Burkina Faso seized power at the end of 2022.

In February, Burkina Faso's military summarily executed about 223 villagers, including at least 56 children, as part of a campaign against civilians accused of collaborating with jihadist militants, Human Rights Watch said last week.

Power in her statement called on donors to increase their support for the humanitarian response she said was "overlooked and underfunded," but warned that even with additional support, reaching vulnerable civilians remains challenging.

She said civilians were trapped by armed groups, cut off from aid by fighting and intentional impediments and suffering from severe hunger. At least 1 million people are reachable only by humanitarian helicopter airlifts or military convoys, Power said.

She warned that nearly 3 million people are projected to face levels of food insecurity requiring immediate humanitarian assistance in coming months.

"We call on all parties, including the Transition Authorities, Burkinabe military, and armed groups, to protect civilians and enable the free flow of humanitarian aid to prevent this devastating situation from getting worse," she said.

(Reporting by Daphne Psaledakis in Washington; Additional reporting by Sofia Christensen in Dakar; Editing by Don Durfee and Matthew Lewis)