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European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations

Burkina Faso: EU launches a Humanitarian Air Bridge to alleviate suffering of blockaded towns

Over 40 million people are currently facing starvation in the Sahel, including in Burkina Faso, where conflict is the leading cause of food insecurity. In front of a major humanitarian disaster, the EU is stepping up emergency support to deliver aid to vulnerable populations in areas where access is severely limited.

Currently, up to 1 million people live in areas under armed blockade, according to the United Nations. Some areas have not received any food supplies for several months. Stocks of food and other items are completely exhausted, leading to market closures.

Sebba is one of these cities. Under the blockade of armed groups since June 2022, this town of 25,000 has swelled to 50,000 with the arrival of displaced families.

The town has already run out of food or is about to. Food convoys attempting to reach the town face restrictions or have been attacked. Physical violence is exerted on civilians who dare to venture beyond a kilometre from the city.

To offer some relief to the residents of Sebba, among other isolated towns, the EU launched a Humanitarian Air Bridge operation to deliver by helicopter up to 800 metric tonnes of essential supplies over 3 months.

In 2022, the European Commission allocated €52.6 million in humanitarian aid to Burkina Faso, including for the recent Air Bridge flight.

Helicopter standing on the ground being loaded
Humanitarian and airport staff load the helicopter with food supplies for Sebba at the Ouagadougou airport.
© European Union, 2022 (photographer: Olympia de Maismont)
2 workers loading items in the helicopter
The helicopter is operated by the EU’s humanitarian partner the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP).
© European Union, 2022 (photographer: Olympia de Maismont)
Row of workers passing through items to be loaded into a helicopter
This humanitarian air bridge is currently the only way possible to assist populations quickly, with cereals and other basic necessities such as nutritional supplies and medicines.
© European Union, 2022 (photographer: Olympia de Maismont)
Arial view of Sebba.
Sebba, under siege since June 2022, as seen from the EU-funded, WFP-operated helicopter, on 11 November.
© European Union, 2022 (photographer: Olympia de Maismont)
Aerial view of part of Sebba
Little to no activity can be seen in and around Sebba, as residents are stopped from leaving the city.
© European Union, 2022 (photographer: Olympia de Maismont)
Helicopter in Sebba being unloaded. Some boxes on the foreground.
The population’s needs are immense, and the limited humanitarian interventions are very insufficient.
© European Union, 2022 (photographer: Olympia de Maismont)
Close up view of people unloading the helicopter.
Since March 2022, the Humanitarian Air Bridge operations, which initially started due to the COVID-19 pandemic, are part of the European Humanitarian Response Capacity (EHRC).
© European Union, 2022 (photographer: Olympia de Maismont)
1 worker standing in the helicopter handing out a package to other people on the ground.
The European Humanitarian Response Capacity (EHRC) is a set of operational and logistical tools managed by the European Commission to support humanitarian partners in delivering aid.
© European Union, 2022 (photographer: Olympia de Maismont)

Story by Hilaire Avril, Regional Information Officer for West and Central Africa, EU Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations.
© European Union, 2022 (photographer: Olympia de Maismont)
Publication date: 07/12/2022