KAYA, BURKINA FASO – The COVID-19 pandemic has led to cuts in foreign aid from donor nations such as Britain, which this month slashed its aid budget by $5.5 billion. The funding loss is being felt in Burkina Faso, where it could shut down a group that helps thousands of survivors of gender-based violence and rape.
Britain has cut its annual aid budget, and so have other countries, such as Australia, Japan and Saudi Arabia.
The largest international nonprofits say the shockwaves of the cuts will be felt by people across Africa in all kinds of situations and will result in deaths.
“For countries like the U.K. and others to be cutting their aid budgets in a global pandemic is extremely shortsighted, and we know it will put the fight back against poverty by many decades. So, the U.N. secretary general, for example, has called these cuts a death sentence, and it really is that stark for many people,” said Nadel.
MSI Reproductive Choices, a group offering family planning to countries in crisis, such as Burkina Faso, where over 1.3 million people have been displaced by conflict, is primarily supported by British aid money.
The cuts will affect large numbers of women, says the head of MSI-Burkina Faso, Dr. Toumbi Sissoko.
Overall, MSI has been able to assist more than 500,000 beneficiaries over two years, she says. She points to Burkina Faso’s context of insecurity, which she says makes women even more vulnerable.
“Alice,” whose name has been changed to protect her identity, received help from MSI after she fled her village in northern Burkina Faso when gunmen attacked. She trekked through the bush for three days, seeking refuge, but then was seized by a group of terrorists.
Alice says they told her to put her daughter down before one of them hit her with the butt of his gun, knocking her to the ground. Six of them raped her, then discussed whether they should kill her but, she says, they concluded it was useless to kill a woman. They got on their motorbikes and left.
When she reached the relative safety of Kaya the next day, she was directed to MSI-Burkina Faso.
Alice OK? says a woman from MSI immediately gave her morning-after pills and advice. She was still traumatized and could neither eat nor breast-feed her daughter. She said that the woman at MSI encouraged her to eat and told her that her life was still worth living.
Flora Guibere works for MSI. She thinks that with the aid cuts, beneficiaries will be left on their own, and the funding to support them won’t exist, and many of her organization’s workers will be out of a job.
For women who fall victim to gang rape, like Alice,OK? it will mean they may no longer receive emergency birth control or support.