Alwilayat Mohamed, 23, has already lost two daughters under the age of five and is facing a daunting struggle to feed her two sons, aged five years and nine months.
She comes from a small village called Tin Akoff in the Sahel region of northern Burkina Faso, where people are predominantly farmers. Surviving in the parching heat is no easy feat in a year when the rainy season is good. But, the last rainy season was significantly worse than normal.
As a result most crops failed, there is little pasture for animals to graze on this year and the price of food in the local markets has risen dramatically. A bag of millet, which is the most resilient of local crops and the staple diet of people in the region, has recently more than doubled in Alwilyat’s local market.
A struggle to feed the children
“My husband went to the Ivory Coast to look for work at the end of the rainy season, last October,” says Alwilayat. “But he hasn’t sent any money back yet. I’m now living with my parents. We’re a big family and we have no stocks of cereal left. My father has had to sell some of his lambs to feed us.”
For farmers in the Sahel region, selling large numbers of their animals is a last resort and depletes their resources. Many families will not have enough to keep them going till the next harvest, especially because the increased number of people who are on the brink and having to sell their animals has brought down the market value of livestock.
Alwilayat has received a second round of food vouchers from the Burkinabe Red Cross and with these she can buy food from local traders, including millet, rice, sugar, salt and oil.
“When the harvest is good we have enough millet to feed ourselves till the arrival of the rainy season in June or July. Then we can eat three times a day and also have sorghum, rice, haricots, sometimes fish and meat,” says Alwilayat. “But now we just have millet, which we eat twice a day. The Red Cross’ support is very important for us because without it we would have to sell more cattle. The vouchers help us avoid that for a little while.”
The fact that so many people are already struggling to get enough to eat, so many months before the next harvest begins in June, is extremely worrying as their access to food will only deteriorate over the coming months.
The Red Cross urgently needs funds to avoid a major food crisis.