Frontline of the Climate Crisis
Women and children continue to suffer the most as the earth becomes more harsh and unforgiving. Chronic drought, windstorms, and flash floods are changing the landscape of humanity. Each devastating storm is driving Burkinabe further into poverty and will eventually force them to flee not just looking for a better life, but in an effort to survive.
Water scarcity is a growing concern throughout Burkina Faso. It has continued to worsen disproportionately since 2018 as armed conflicts have forced people to leave their homes and relocate to safer city centers. Even before refugee camps doubled the population of a city like Koudougou, where our partner Lumière des Enfants is located, safe drinking water was in short supply.
Seasonal variations on the climate are putting even more pressure on limited water resources. The Sambisgo dam has been the main source of water for Koudougou since the 1960s. Today the dam is completely dry 8 months of the year. It's not just the lack of rainfall, but extreme heat is causing water at the dams to evaporate before it's even used.
Something as common as hand washing becomes a luxury item in parts of the world experiencing severe drought. Washing your hands helps prevent the spread of disease whether it's covid-19, diarrhea, or the common cold. The CDC recommends a thorough hand washing before handling food, before and after touching your face, after changing a diaper or using the toilet.
But in Burkina Faso, where water is scarce and disease rampant it becomes a hard choice. There are days families go without any water, to cook, clean, or drink. Hygiene is the first thing to sacrifice when there's not enough water to drink. You can't 'waste' a drop on your hands when you need every ounce to stay alive.
As the earth continues to get warmer and storms more frequent and severe, the world's water and food supplies threaten entire communities. Poor people in rural areas of the world are the most affected by climate change even though they contribute the least to it. More communities are turning to boreholes to find reliable sources of clean water. A borehole can provide over 300 gallons of water an hour delivered in a sanitary way that helps prevent widespread disease. But these common water wells are not provided through the government.
In Burkina Faso 40% of the population lives below the poverty line. Their houses are not designed to withstand the extreme weather conditions that are now plaguing their communities. They do not possess the resources to track changing weather patterns or have the flexibility to upgrade or change their normal routines because of it. In short, climate change is devastating their lives.
Eighty percent of the workforce in Burkina is employed in agriculture. Many households rely on small independent gardens to feed their families. As the dry season stretches longer and the rainy season brings increasingly severe weather, crops are damaged and livestock lost. Families are going hungry. Children are malnourished.
Women are often tasked with providing for their families and as the climate changes that becomes more challenging daily. While women are forced to figure out solutions, they don't always have access to resources they need. They may not be able to secure a loan or obtain new land.
Lumière des Enfants has always been there to support the women and children in their community. They recently provided sacks of rice and maize as climate change and conflict worked in tandem to escalate the food crisis. In 2019 they opened a medical center that helps treat diseases made worse by overcrowding and poor water quality in the city. They are currently monitoring the refugee situation and plan to make adjustments to provide more resources for the growing population. They hope to secure funding to create a borehole in at least one of ten communities in need of a new water source.
Bikes for the World is able to support these efforts by providing bikes to Lumière des Enfants. Once the donated bikes are repaired, they are sold to help support vital programs like these. The medical center that opened a few years ago is partially supported through the bike project. As needs increase, the need for bikes continues to grow.