Burkina Faso has rapidly turned into an “unprecedented humanitarian emergency” as conflicts in the Sahel region have displaced hundreds of thousands of people in the past two years, according to MSF. As the Covid-19 pandemic takes hold in the country, UNHCR has expressed alarm over “the growing insecurity in Burkina Faso, where violence is forcing thousands of people to flee their homes every day.’’
On 3 May, there were 652 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Burkina Faso, making it the most affected of the West African Sahel country. Authorities declared a state of sanitary emergency on 27 March, closed its borders, and announced a quarantine in eight cities. A week before, on 19 March, the Ministry of Justice suspended most visits in prisons, allowing only lawyers to visit clients if they respected sanitary measures.
On 3 April, the president announced the release of 1,207 detainees based on their age, state of health, amount of time served. At that time, 7,621 people were imprisoned in the country and the occupancy level in prisons, based on official capacity, was at approximately 190 percent. In 2019, the UN Committee against Torture expressed concern ‘’about conditions of detention, impunity, impacts of counterterrorism measures on human rights, and actions by members of self-defence militias (Koglweogo) who are reportedly carrying out illegal arrests, detention, murder and acts of torture.’’
On 10 April, the ICRC distributed medical equipment to the country. Soap, antiseptic gel and thermometers, amongst other things, were then re-distributed by the government to prison facilities.
In the Goudoubo refugee camp, located in the northeast, attacks from armed groups forced refugees to flee in early April. A UNHCR spokesperson reported that “Some took refuge in the overcrowded sites initially reserved for the internally displaced.’’
- Médecins Sans Frontières, “Four Questions on the Unprecedented Humanitarian Emergency in Burkina Faso,” 20 March 2020, https://www.msf.org/unprecedented-humanitarian-emergency-burkina-faso
- Lefaso.net, “Prévention du Covid-19 dans les Prisons: Le CICR Fournit du Matériel au Ministère de la Justice,” 14 April 2020, https://lefaso.net/spip.php?article96172
- A. Zemo, “Coronavirus en Afrique: le Point de la Situation,” AfricaNews, 4 May 2020, https://fr.africanews.com/2020/05/04/coronavirus-l-essentiel-de-l-info-sur-la-pandemie-en-afrique/
- AFP, “Burkina Faso Frees Prisoners to Stem Virus Spread,” Daily Monitor, 3 April 2020, https://www.monitor.co.ug/News/World/Burkina-Faso-frees-prisoners-stem-virus-spread/688340-5512766-6gph40/index.html
- GardaWorld, “Burkina Faso: Authorities Declare State of Sanitary Emergency 27 March/update 5,” 27 March 2020, https://www.garda.com/fr/crisis24/alertes-de-securite/327021/burkina-faso-authorities-declare-state-of-sanitary-emergency-march-27-update-5
- ONU Info, “Covid-19: l’OMS Préoccupée par l’Augmentation des Cas en Afrique de l’Ouest,” 30 April 2020, https://news.un.org/fr/story/2020/04/1067802
- UNHCR, “L’insécurité au Burkina Faso Force des Milliers de Réfugiés Maliens à Quitter un Camp,” 3 April 2020, https://www.unhcr.ca/fr/news/linsecurite-burkina-faso-force-milliers-refugies-maliens-quitter-camp/
- World Prison Brief, “Burkina Faso,” accessed on 4 May 2020, https://www.prisonstudies.org/country/burkina-faso
- OHCHR, “UN Committee Against Torture Publishes Findings on Burkina Faso, Cyprus, Latvia, Niger, Portugal and Uzbekistan,” 6 December 2019, https://www.ohchr.org/SP/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=25397&LangID=E
- A Soldier Standing Behind ICRC Provided Equipment for Prisons, (“Prévention du Covid-19 dans les Prisons: Le CICR Fournit du Matériel au Ministère de la Justice,” Lefaso.net, 14 April 2020, https://lefaso.net/spip.php?article96172)