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Burkina Faso: the crisis of bad choices

You have five children at home that risk going hungry in the coming months and you have one child being treated for malnutrition at a Save the Children health centre.

Do you stay at the centre with your one child and take the risk of your other five children making it through July and August, or do you interrupt the treatment of your youngest, and thereby risk losing him, in order to stay with the other five and cultivate the earth in case the rains come?

Let me give you another example. You have x amount of money to feed your family, an amount that is supposed to last through the entire lean season, until the next harvest. Two of your children fall sick and need medication; if not, they will die.

Do you use up the bulk of your money on saving the two, or do you save the money, hope the two will survive and buy food for the rest of your children?

No ordinary choices

These are no ordinary choices – and in fact, these are choices that no parent should ever have to face. Nonetheless, this is the reality of millions of people across west Africa today.

I’ve seen it myself in the past couple of days. I’ve talked to the mothers and the fathers that are about to be pushed off the edge. Bibata, the mother of little Allaye comes to mind.

Bibata is 31, a mother of six. When I met Bibata and her son, Allaye, he had an eye infection and was showing early symptoms of malnutrition.

Bibata had already sent for some medicine for his eyes but the boy would still be malnourished.

We tell Bibata to take him to a nearby Save the Children’s health centre, where he’ll get free treatment. There are 52 such centres all over Kaya district, reaching thousands of malnourished children and their families.

Waiting for rain

In Allaye’s village, the village of Tangpooré, everybody is waiting for the rains to start.

That means their crops will start to grow and that means food, that they are safe. But it also means an increased risk of malaria. Last year, five children in the village died of malaria.

As of today, there are two million people in Burkina Faso that are at risk of hunger. Save the Children has already reached more than 50,000 with malnutrition and water and sanitation support – and plans to reach more than 260,000, of which 160,000 are children.

Young Allaye is one of them.

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