Poverty & Healthcare

Improving life chances

Life expectancy in Burkina Faso is just 52 years, according to the World Health Organization (WHO 2009). However, this lifespan is an improvement compared with 20 years ago, when the average Burkinabe could expect to live only 48 years. Young boy sitting in makeshift cart, being towed by a donkey among house construction in Burkina Faso

Over 16% of the government’s expenditure goes on the health sector. Money is spent on immunising infants against a range of diseases such as measles and diphtheria. The state has also invested in prevention and treatment programmes for HIV/AIDS. Rates of infection are dropping, with just over one percent of Burkina’s adults living with the disease in 2009 (UNAIDS).

A shortage of medical staff

Dearth of doctors

As of 2009, there were only 920 doctors in the country, fewer than one physician for every 10,000 people.

There are modern-equipped hospitals in the large towns and cities and clinics in some villages. However, medical facilities in much of the country are poor. Services in rural areas particularly suffer from a lack of trained healthcare professionals.

Some areas of the wetter south are sparsely inhabited because of the threat posed by insect-borne diseases such as malaria. Even so, over 4.4 million cases of malaria were recorded in 2009 (WHO) and malaria remains the biggest killer of young children.

World-renowned medical centres in Ougadougou and Bobo-Dioulasso specialise in conducting research into insect-borne diseases like malaria.

Few toilets

Poor hygiene

While clean drinking water is available to three-quarters of the population, proper sanitation is scarce. Only one in ten Burkinabe have toilets.

The population is also at high risk of becoming ill from contaminated food or water, because hygiene standards are poor. The country suffers from regular outbreaks of cholera and many young children die from diarrhoeal diseases.

With well over half the population living below the poverty line, malnutrition is commonplace – 37% of children under five are underweight (WHO 2000-2009).

With poor nutrition and a high risk from disease, 166 children in every 1,000 are likely to die before their fifth birthday (WHO 2009).