African leaders gathered on Friday for a summit in Equatorial Guinea’s Malabo to address growing humanitarian needs on the continent, which is also facing a race of violent extremism, climate change challenges and a military coup.
The leaders called for greater mobilization to solve the humanitarian crisis that has displaced millions and left more than 280 million people suffering from malnutrition.
For people in Jibo, a city in northern Burkina Faso near the border with Mali, no help can come soon enough.
The city in the Sahel region – the large expanse beneath the Sahara Desert – has been besieged since February by jihadists who block people and goods from moving in or out and cut off water supplies. Some trucker jihadis want to carry weapons. Residents are running short of food or water, animals are dying and the price of grain has gone up.
“Goods are no longer coming here. Animal and agricultural production is not possible because people can’t go back to their villages,” Barbara Manzi, UN resident and humanitarian coordinator, told The Associated Press from Jibo this week. “Unless (a solution) is found, it will really be a tragedy for the entire group of people who are here.”
Jibo has been at the center of violence linked to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group, which has killed thousands and displaced nearly 2 million. While Jibo – and Saum province, where the city is located – experienced periods of peace, such as during a temporary ceasefire between the jihadists and the government around the 2020 presidential election, the truce did not.
Insecurity in the area has increased since November. Locals say jihadists have destroyed water infrastructure in the city and covered the perimeter of Jibo with explosives, blocking the city.
The city’s population has grown from 60,000 to 300,000 over the years as people flee the countryside to escape violence.
Laith Alkhouri, CEO of Intelonyx Intelligence, said blocking the cities is a tactic used by jihadists to claim dominance, and could also be an attempt to get Burkina Faso’s new military junta, which in January had seized power, to back down on a promise to eliminate the jihadists. Consultants, a group that provides intelligence analysis.
“The terrorists resorted to the blockade when they had the opportunity to gain impetus in negotiations with the government and at the same time send a message to their base that they were in control. It is a bargaining card, and a winning one,” he said. ” They said.
A United Nations team flew in briefly to assess the situation. The Associated Press was the first foreign media to visit the city in more than a year.
“There’s nothing to buy here today. Even if you have cash, nothing. We came here with four donkeys and goats, and some of them died of hunger. To sell the rest of the animals to us were forced, and unfortunately, the prices of the animals have come down,” said cattle owner Mamoudou Oumaro.
The 53-year-old father, 13, who fled his village in February, said the blockade in Zibo has prevented people from coming to the market to buy and sell cattle, slashing demand and halving the prices of animals.
Before the violence, Jibo had one of the largest and most important animal markets in the Sahel and was a bustling economic centre. Some 600 trucks used to enter Zibo monthly, and it is now fewer than 70, said Alfa Osmane Dao, director of Seracom, a local support group in Zibo.
Burkina Faso is facing its worst hunger crisis in six years. According to the United Nations, more than 630,000 people are on the verge of starvation.
Antoine Renard, country director of the World Food Program in Burkina Faso, said that as a result of the blockade of Zibo, the World Food Program has been unable to deliver food to the city since December, and stocks are running out.
Efforts to end the blockade through dialogue have had mixed results. In late April, the Emir of Jibo met with Burkina Faso’s top jihadist, Jafar Diko, to negotiate lifting the siege. However, little progress has been made since then.
Locals say the jihadists have eased restrictions in some areas, allowing free movement, but the military is now preventing people from bringing food from Jibo to nearby villages, fearing that it could be a threat to the jihadists. will go to
The military denied the allegations.
Meanwhile, residents of Jibo say they are risking their lives trying to survive.
Dadu Sadou searches for wood and water outside Jibo at midnight, when she says that the jihadists are not around.
“We don’t have animals anymore. We don’t have food to buy at the market. … If you have kids, you have no choice,” she said.