Burkina Faso: Nutrition Profile

Speeches Shim

A landlocked sub-Saharan country, Burkina Faso is among the poorest countries in the world—40 percent of its population lives below the national poverty line (World Bank 2020)—and it ranks 182nd out of 189 countries on United Nations Development Program’s (UNDP’s) 2019 Human Development Index (UNDP 2019). In 2015, a new president was democratically elected for the first time in 30 years. This significant political change was brought about by violent street protests and general dissatisfaction with the political and economic situation in Burkina Faso. An increase in terrorist attacks, influx of Malian refugees, and a sharp rise from fewer than 50,000 in January 2019 to 765,000 displaced Burkina Faso residents in March 2020 also impacts the political context and food security (World Bank 2020; WFP 2017). The new government is committed to improving the economy and addressing food insecurity in the country; it has released several new policies related to economic growth (National Plan for Economic and Social Development–PNDES), resilience (PRP–AGIR), and food security (National Food and Nutrition Security Policy–PNSAN) in 2016 (Murphy, Oot, and Sethuraman 2017); free health care for pregnant and lactating women and children under five in 2016; and free family planning services for all women nationwide in 2020.

The agricultural sector employs around 80 percent of the population, and generates roughly a third of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), but struggles to produce an adequate supply of food. Variable rainfall, land degradation, deforestation, and desertification all negatively impact Burkina Faso’s agricultural efforts. Agriculture production typically supports subsistence livelihoods and, while the country has seen reductions in food insecurity, more than 3.5 million Burkinabe (20 percent) are food insecure (USAID 2020). The 2020 Global Hunger Index reports that Burkina Faso faces a serious level of hunger (von Grebmer et al. 2020).

Rapid population growth, gender inequality, and low levels of educational attainment contribute to food insecurity and poverty in Burkina Faso. The estimated population growth rate is 3 percent per year and more than half of Burkinabe are younger than 18 (UNICEF 2019). Women marry at a young age, have an average of six children, and lack control over their fertility, household decision making, and time. Women have less access to land, capital, and farming inputs, which limits their productive capacity and undermines their ability to achieve or adequately support household food security. In 2019, 31 percent of women were literate and 49 percent of men were literate (INSD 2020). This is an increase from 2010, when literacy rates were 23 percent among women and 36 percent among men. The government has taken an active role in increasing primary education enrollment for girls through the National Strategy for Promotion of Girl’s Education and has invested in better school infrastructure (Murphy, Oot, and Sethuraman 2017). Higher literacy rates for younger women suggest that concerted efforts to promote girls’ education have been fruitful (INSD and ICF International 2012).

Currently, Burkina Faso ranks 141st out of 162 countries in terms of progress toward meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (Sachs et al. 2019). Maternal mortality continues to decrease in Burkina Faso—from 341 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2010 to 330 in 2015, thanks in part to subsidized obstetric and neonatal emergency care. Although Burkina Faso still has some of the highest child mortality rates in the world, between 2010 and 2015 the country saw large reductions in its neonatal, infant, and under-five mortality rates. Neonatal mortality dropped from 28 to 23 deaths per 1,000 live births, infant mortality dropped from 65 to 43 deaths per 1,000 live births, and under-five mortality dropped from 129 to 82 deaths per 1,000 live births (INSD and ICF International 2012; INSD 2015). These reductions are likely due, in part, to increased access to and utilization of health services for children under five and obstetric services, although issues with the health system remain (Murphy, Oot, and Sethuraman 2017). The National Nutrition Policy lists malaria, neonatal conditions, acute respiratory infections, and diarrhea as major causes of infant and neonatal mortality and asserts that malnutrition is the underlying cause of 35 percent of infant and child deaths (MOH 2016).

Friday, February 4, 2022 - 8:15am

Last updated: February 22, 2022