On Wednesday, January 11, 2023, the government decided to suspend World Food Program humanitarian flights.What happened between the transitional government of Burkina Faso and the World Food Program (WFP) to cause the helicopters chartered by the UN agency to deliver food to areas under jihadist blockade to be grounded? “There was a communication problem and there was a serious misunderstanding in the refueling of the WFP’s air fleet,” the Minister of Humanitarian Action, Nandy Some argued.
She said that when the WFP informed the government of the acquisition of the new freighters, the UN agency received authorization from the executive to bring these humanitarian helicopters to Burkina.
During an initial meeting with humanitarian actors, “I asked if the state could also transport food with these three aircraft. They said that in the humanitarian principle, it is not able to transport food from the state,” Minister Some explained.
At a second meeting, she reiterated her request for assistance, explaining that the country has food stored for a long time in the stores, which risk being spoiled if they are not transported as soon as possible to the people. “The acting coordinator of the United Nations System, Abdouraouf Gnon-Konde, recognized that this is logical but wanted to refer first to the WFP headquarters in order to raise the concern before coming back to us for further action,” Nandy Some conclided.
In return, according to the Minister of Humanitarian Action, the WFP agreed but demanded a counterpart from the Burkinabe state, because the three Chinook helicopters were rented for a period of three months and were to carry a total of 10,000 tons of food. It estimated the Burkinabe counterpart at between 13 and 15 billion CFA francs ($20 to $25 million) to transport 7,000 tons of food.
“While we were in these discussions (…), they began their flights without a protocol being established…. Because, just like the helicopter that was already there, the Chinooks had to agree on the same principles: to have the flight plans 72 hours in advance, the contents and quantities of the food transported, to know their destination… Nobody had authorized them to fly. This is what led us to tell them to suspend the flights,” explained the head of the department in charge of humanitarian issues.
However, she reassured that discussions are underway to resume humanitarian flights. For her, the government’s measure allows her to see clearly on the issues of cooperation.