Young people leading the fight against hunger: Meet Floriane

October 31, 2022
By Kerri Whelan
October 31, 2022

In Burkina Faso, a group of 20 women are living in a town called Koupela. They rent a one-room house together, where they’ve been living with their children since January after fleeing violent attacks in their home regions.

A mother who was forcibly displaced from her home sits with her young daughter in Koupela.
A mother who was forcibly displaced from her home sits with her young daughter in Koupela.

Koupela is a small town, but it hosts more than 6,000 new residents. And community members like 18-year-old Floriane are welcoming the refugees with open arms — today, Floriane decides to cook the group of women a good meal.

Floriane (left), age 18, strolls through a local market with one of the displaced women.
Floriane (left), age 18, strolls through a local market with one of the displaced women.

“Women sometimes come knocking on our door and ask us for the leftovers from our meals,” Floriane, a high school student, tells us. “It is so sad. Very often they tell me about their former lives. There is a woman here who lost her husband … She had her home, her children, her house and they attacked them.”

More than 1.9 million people in Burkina Faso have now had to flee their homes. The majority are women and children. More than 4,200 schools are closed due to conflict and violence. And while conflict plays a large part in displacement, another main driver is hunger. Around 3.5 million people don’t have enough food in Burkina Faso, and 630,000 are on the brink of starvation.

[Read: What the war in Ukraine means for Africa]

Displaced women in Koupela often struggle finding or affording food to eat.
Displaced women in Koupela often struggle finding or affording food to eat.

With your support, Plan is responding to this crisis in Burkina Faso, providing life-saving food assistance. We’re also working with young leaders like Floriane to support locally led, and youth-led, crisis response. Young people are the experts in what their communities need, and we work with them to bring those solutions to life. They are the future, and their long-term leadership will break the cycles of hunger.

“They have food problems, they don’t have anything to eat,” Floriane says. “These women and children sleep hungry, it’s really shocking. So, I decided to prepare a special dish with them, and I am sure they are very happy. It is a personal initiative that has been supported by Plan International.”

A displaced woman receives a food package from young leaders in Koupela.
A displaced woman receives a food package from young leaders in Koupela.

Along with providing food assistance, Floriane and other young leaders are participating in Plan trainings for peacebuilding and conflict management. They’re also hosting debates and games between community members and their new neighbors to help build bridges and create stronger connections.

As Floriane sets off for the market with one woman, they buy couscous, vegetables and fish, as well as cooking utensils. The few dishes and cutlery that the group of women have were salvaged from the garbage.

Floriane helps a woman named Tinnin draw water from the well.
Floriane helps a woman named Tinnin draw water from the well.

“The food crisis is only getting worse,” Floriane says. “At the market, everything has increased. When I come to see them, I have to buy them something or give them money. They have nothing, they are in total poverty.”

Floriane buys a pair of earrings for her new friend. "If it were up to me, I would be with them every day and cook for them every day,” she says.
Floriane buys a pair of earrings for her new friend. "If it were up to me, I would be with them every day and cook for them every day,” she says.

The women have asked Floraine and other young people in the community to help them send a message to local authorities and humanitarian organizations working in the area:

“They asked us to talk to the officials because they suffer from sitting around doing nothing and waiting for someone to come and give them food,” Floraine says. “It’s not enough to just come and give them food and supplies. Instead, they need work, so that they are not dependent on this help. This would be very beneficial for them, and for that matter, everyone.

“I say to myself, ‘what if I were in their shoes?’ I really invite my friends, my relatives, to accompany me because I should not be alone in doing this. Everyone should do it.

“Some people can’t even imagine that there are people who can go a whole day, even two days without eating, yet it’s the reality here. The slightest gesture, whatever the occasion, they must not hesitate.”