Learn more about specific causes in Burkina Faso that you can get involved in.
EnvironmentBurkina Faso has a number of natural mineral resources including gold, manganese, limestone, marble, pumice and salt, and is the 4th largest producer of gold on the continent. It is also a large producer of cotton and shea nuts, used to produce shea butter.1 Drought significantly impacts the 80 percent of the population engaged in subsistence farming. Deforestation is also an issue, as trees are often used for fuel and trade. Soil erosion from over-farming results in a loss of soil fertility, further exacerbating the effects of drought in the agriculture sector.2 Burkina Faso is party to a number of international environmental agreements, including ones on biodiversity, climate change, desertification, endangered species and hazardous wastes.3
Family52 percent of girls in Burkina Faso are married by age 18, and 10 percent are married by age 10. Burkina Faso is 5th in the world for worst child marriage rates.1 In the Sahel region of the nation, 86 percent of girls are married before turning 18.2 75 percent of women between the ages of 15 and 49 have been affected by Female Genital Mutilation, and 12 percent of women are victims of domestic violence.3
Human RightsAdolescent mothers and pregnant girls are frequently barred or talked out of attending school.1 Security forces charged with anti-terrorism are reported to perform unnecessary killings, instilling fear into civilians. Burkinabe in the Sahel region report undue violence, harassment and unjust executions as they were caught between Islamist extremist groups who threatened civilians with death for lack of cooperation. Similarly, security forces also threatened death for citizens who did not disclose information about the extremist groups, leaving Burkinabe citizens with few safe options.2
EducationThe literacy rate in Burkina Faso is just 36 percent of the total population, and the average student spends 8 years in school.1 However, the primary school completion rate is just 61 percent.2 Education accounts for 4.2 percent of the GDP.3 The education system is modeled after the French, with French being the primary language. After completion of primary school, students take an exam that can allow them to continue to high school.4
PovertyBurkina Faso’s GDP per capita is $1,900, and 40.1 percent of the population falls below the poverty line.1 52 percent of girls in Burkina Faso are married by age 18, and 10 percent are married by age 10. Burkina Faso is 5th in the world for worst child marriage rates.2 Approximately 3.4 million people in Burkina Faso do not have access to an improved water source, and over 16 million do not have access to modern sanitation facilities.3
ReligionApproximately 61 percent of the Burkinabe population is Muslim, and 23 percent identify as Roman Catholic. 7.8 percent are part of a traditional or animist faith, 6.5 percent are Protestant and the remainder claim no faith.1 The Burkinabe government officially identifies as secular.2
Clean WaterApproximately 3.4 million people in Burkina Faso do not have access to an improved water source, and over 16 million do not have access to modern sanitation facilities.1 Each year, over 4,500 children under the age of 5 die from diarrhea due to poor water quality and lack of access to proper sanitation facilities.2 The Saharan winds during the dry season frequently cause water shortages when rainfall and groundwater is nonexistent, as the local water pumps become the sole source of water for whole communities and can become overworked.3
EconomyBurkina Faso is a considerably poor nation, prone to drought, and lacking access to a dependable power grid and communication system. The majority of the population — 80 percent — are subsistence farmers. Gold accounts for approximately 75 percent of the nation’s exports, and economic growth depends heavily on the global market value of both gold and cotton.1 Burkina Faso’s GDP per capita is $1,900, and 40.1 percent of the population falls below the poverty line. 77 percent of people in Burkina Faso are unemployed, and a significant portion of the male workforce travels out of country for seasonal employment.2
GovernmentA former French colony, Burkina Faso gained its independence in 1960, and until then was known as Upper Volta. Numerous military coups through the 1970s and 80s ended with multi-partisan elections in the 1990s. The capital of Ouagadougou experienced a number of terrorist attacks from 2016 through 2018.1 Burkina Faso is a presidential republic with both a president and a prime minister. Its legal system is modeled after the French legal system.2 Transparency International ranks Burkina Faso 74th out of 180 nations, with a score of 42 out of 100.3
HealthThe risk of contracting major infectious diseases in Burkina Faso is high; common diseases include malaria, dengue fever, yellow fever, bacterial and protozoal diarrhea, hepatitis A and typhoid. Many of these diseases are waterborne, and rabies and meningococcal meningitis are also common.1 Life expectancy at birth is just 55.9 years, one of the lowest in the world.2 Burkina Faso also has high infant and maternal mortality rates. The infant mortality rate is 72.2 deaths per 1,000 live births, making Burkina Faso the nation with the 7th highest infant mortality rate in the world. 19 percent of children under the age of five are underweight.3 The maternal mortality rate is also high, with 371 deaths per 100,000 live births.4
Children52 percent of girls in Burkina Faso are married by age 18, and 10 percent are married by age 15. Burkina Faso is 5th in the world for worst child marriage rates.1 In the Sahel region of the nation, 86 percent of girls are married before turning 18.2 Burkina Faso also has a staggeringly high infant mortality rate of 72.2 deaths per 1,000 live births, making it the nation with the 7th highest infant mortality rate in the world. 19 percent of children under the age of five are underweight.3 The maternal mortality rate is also high, with 371 deaths per 100,000 live births.4 Children in Burkina Faso are sometimes recruited to help with cotton harvest, as well as gold mining, and the United States Read More Department of Labor reports that children are often victims of commercialized sexual exploitation as well.5 Show Less
AnimalsBurkina Faso is home to a number of animal species including the antelope, elephant, lion, buffalo, giraffe, hippopotamus, dama gazelle and leopard.1 Burkina Faso has the world’s largest population of roan antelope, and has 12 different wildlife conservation sites. W National Park, shared by Burkina Faso, Benin and Niger, is a refuge for West African elephants, and the endangered Saharan cheetah.2
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