By Faye Callaghan, in Burkina Faso
Bazam Adizeita is putting all her hope in four scrawny chickens. As they scratch around under her bed in the straw hut, it’s hard to share her optimism. Bazam lives in Northern Burkina Faso, in a village called Menzourou. Since the rains failed and insects devoured her crops, she has nothing to feed her eight children. Relying on the charity of friends and neighbours, her children are managing to avoid malnutrition but Bazam hasn’t eaten for several days.
Last month was different, she says, then the Red Cross brought food vouchers. During January and February, the Burkinabe Red Cross saw that the food situation was getting serious in many provinces and moved fast to act. The organization worked with community elders to identify the 1,100 most vulnerable families in the province. These each received ten coupons which they could swap in specially designated shops for the basic essentials: oil, sugar, salt, millet and rice.
This was the initial action of the Red Cross, aimed at saving lives. But the focus is also to prevent families slipping into the same precarious situation every time there’s a drought. Many families in the Sahel live in a fragile food security situation, relying on their local production and with few other means of earning an income. Children and pregnant women quickly fall into a poor nutritional state as they are not able to access sufficient and varied food.
The Burkina Faso Red Cross has launched an emergency appeal of almost four million US dollars to fund projects across the northern region that build the resilience of households. Projects will include livestock and agricultural support, income generating activities and communal gardens.
It last rained in the Tin Akoff area, where Menzourou is situated, in August 2011 and with none expected until July, the outlook isn’t good. But the ever-optimistic Bazam says she is ready when it does come. “The minute the first drops of rain come, we’ll go running from the house to plant seeds. We’ll even leave the baby behind, we’ll just all get planting!” she says.
With her husband working in Abidjan, but not sending back any money, Bazam is left to fend for herself and her large family. She hopes for more help from the Red Cross, but wants to remain self sufficient too. The scrawny chickens she bought are to be fattened with whatever seeds Bazam can find and then sold at market. It’s a big gamble. If it doesn’t pay off - and if her neighbours too find themselves without food or money - the situation will become increasingly dire for Bazam and her children.