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10. New Coronavirus Pandemic ― Humanitarian and Food Crisis in the Central Sahel: The Case of Burkina Faso

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Burkina Faso


On April 2, 2020, the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) expressed strong concern that food insecurity levels in the central Sahel region, encompassing Burkina Faso, Mari and Niger, are “spiralling out of control”. Limitations in response to the novel coronavirus infectious disease (COVID-19) affect the humanitarian supply chain, with more than 5 million people facing a severe food shortage ahead of the June-September lean season. 

Burkina Faso is a landlocked country located in west Africa with a population of about 19 million, agriculture accounting for the majority of the working population and 35% of GDP (Ministry of Foreign Affairs). It is considered a low-income country according to the World Bank classification, with 44% of the population living below $1.9 a day (2014, WDI), and the 182nd out of 189 countries in the Human Development Index (2018, HDR). Security has rapidly deteriorated in recent years due to repeated droughts and militant activities, and it is estimated that there are now more than 800,000 internally displaced populations (IDPs), which were almost nonexistent a year and a half ago (WFP).

In Burkina Faso, the first case was confirmed on March 10th this year. After that, the number of infected people increased rapidly, the first death was confirmed on March 18, the ministers were also infected one after another, more than 100 infected people on the 23rd, and 12 dead on the 30th, becoming sub-Saharan. It has become the country in Africa with the highest number of deaths. As of April 5, the number of infected people is 302, and the number of deaths is 15, the second highest in Sub-Saharan Africa and next to the Democratic Republic of Congo with 16 deaths.) (WHO).

Although measures have been taken to prevent going out at night, closing schools, stopping international flights, etc., the spread of infection does not stop. In Burkina Faso, the health system has been weakened due to the closure of 135 health centers nationwide in the last 12 months due to the deterioration of security (The New Humanitarian). As for food-related issues, there is concern that school closure will affect children whose only source of nutrition is the school lunch (Kyodo News). Furthermore, due to movement restrictions and the inability to receive external assistance, WFP has predicted that the number of people in Burkina Faso facing a food security crisis by June this year will reach 2.1 million, compared with 680,000 in the same period last year and requested emergency assistance from the international community.

JIRCAS conducts bi-monthly household surveys on farmers in rural areas of Burkina Faso, and is conducting analysis on diet and nutrition. Burkina Faso has many kinds of staple foods such as sorghum, millet, maize, beans, potatoes, rice and baguette. Although there are differences depending on the region, harvesting of cowpeas (a type of beans) etc. generally starts around September, and other major grains are harvested from around October to November. Food and nutrition security has seasonality, and the peak of hunger is in August, and it is becoming clear as a result of the preliminary stage that the supply of nutrients is actually low.

JIRCAS is currently conducting three projects in Burkina Faso, namely, development of domestic fertilizer, development of soil conservation type agricultural technology, and utilization of cowpea which is a local crop. We have built relationships of trust with our counterparts over the years, and we have been working together as much as we can to cope with the recent deterioration of public security. We will continue to cooperate in agriculture and capacity development.


WFP HP. Burkina Faso crisis and COVID-19 concerns highlight pressure on Sahel food security Accessed on April 6, 2020.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Burkina Faso Data (In Japanese) Accessed on April 6, 2020

World Bank, WDI (World Development Indicator) Accessed on April 6, 2020

UNDP, HDR (Human Development Reports) Aaccessed on April 6, 2020

WHO, Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) Situation Report Accessed on April 6, 2020

The New Humanitarian “Coronavirus in crisis-hit Burkina Faso: Healthcare centres close as cases rise” Accessed on April 6, 2020

共同通信社「550万人に食料危機拡大の恐れ 西アフリカ、感染拡大で拍車 」2020/4/4. https://this.kiji.is/619072108733973601  accessed on April 4, 2020.


Contributors: SHIRATORI Sakiko (Research Strategy Office), NAGUMO Fujio (Crop, Livestock and Environment Division)

Farm in Burkina Faso

Local market in Burkina Faso

Cowpeas (beans), an important protein source, are harvested in September

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