Arbinda and the broader Sahel region of Burkina Faso have faced dwindling food supplies because of multiple blockades imposed by jihadist groups since last year. About 3.5 million people are projected to face severe food insecurity in the country this year, according to the World Food Program. In Djibo, a city 55 miles west of Arbinda, cases of diarrhea have spiked because of scarce access to drinking water caused by the blockade, the organization has said.
Faced with hunger, the women in Arbinda gathered carts to pick up leaves and wild fruit in the bush on Jan. 12, residents told news outlets. A few survivors managed to escape and recount what happened, but another group was kidnapped the following day in a nearby village, they said.
Nearly one million people live in blockaded areas in the country’s north and east, according to the United Nations.
Through military convoys, the government and humanitarian groups have tried to get supplies to the isolated localities, but they have faced attacks, too. In August, 2021, 80 people, including 65 civilians, were killed in an attack on a convoy taking them to Arbinda. Dozens of civilians were killed in a similar operation in the region last September.
The authorities have recruited 3,000 soldiers, and, as part of a program to involve civilians in the defense of the country, 50,000 volunteers who will undergo two weeks of military training. But the program, Volunteers for the Defense of the Homeland, has raised concerns among analysts that ethnic violence and human rights abuses will increase if civilians are not properly trained.
In late December, 28 civilians were killed in northwestern Burkina Faso, according to local officials, who didn’t provide details on the alleged perpetrators. At least two local rights organizations have accused members of the civilian auxiliary force of carrying out the killings.
Mr. Koné, the analyst, said that as the military has increased offensives against extremist groups, the first victims would likely be civilian populations, which are accused of collaborating with one side or another.