According to figures provided by the International Committee of the Red Cross, more than 800 families, or around 5,000 people, have fled their homes to live farther south — a figure that Ouedraogo says is more likely “14,000 or 15,000”.
“The villages are emptying little by little and those who remain there are constantly threatened by Ansarul Islam,” he says, referring to a group that has carried out many attacks in the region along the 1,000-km (600-mile) border with Mali.
The government has vowed to fight back. In June 2017, it launched a three-year emergency programme worth 455 billion CFA francs (700 million euros) to improve security, education, health and drinking water in the country’s Sahel region.
Security has also been boosted by the internationally backed G5 Sahel, an anti-jihadist group which aims to train 5,000 troops and crack down on militants in Burkina Faso and neighbouring Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.
“Burkina will not give up an inch of its territory,” Defence Minister Jean-Claude Bouda said at the end of last year. “We will fight tooth and nail to save our country.”