Burkina Faso Facts - Compassion International

Compassion has been making a difference in the lives of children in need in Burkina Faso since 2004. Through our work there, we gather Burkina Faso facts about children in need and the community of Burkina Faso. These Burkina Faso facts and statistics provide a good overview of the reality of poverty and how Compassion is releasing children from poverty in Jesus' name.

Poverty is a common problem in the country of Burkina Faso but Compassion is working to change this. The Burkina Faso facts tell a discouraging story, but Compassion is bringing hope in the midst of this discouragement. With your involvement, our programs are changing the statistics one child at a time.

Don't let the hopelessness of Burkina Faso facts overwhelm you. You can make a difference to a child in Burkina Faso today!

Burkina Faso

We partner with churches and denominations to help them provide Burkinabé children with the opportunity to rise above their circumstances and become all God has created them to be.

Our work in Burkina Faso began in the summer of 2004. Currently, more than 80,000 children participate in more than 260 child development centers.

Learn About Burkina Faso

Until the end of the 19th century, the history of Burkina Faso was dominated by the empire-building Mossi. The French arrived and claimed the area in 1896, but Mossi resistance ended only with the capture of their capital, Ouagadougou in 1901. The colony of Upper Volta was established in 1919, but it was dismantled and reconstituted several times until the present borders were recognized in 1947.

The French administered the area indirectly through Mossi authorities until independence was achieved on Aug. 5, 1960. The first president, Maurice Yameogo, amended the constitution soon after taking office to ban opposition political parties. His government lasted until 1966, when the first of several military coups placed Lt. Col. Sangoule Lamizana at the head of a government of senior army officers. Lamizana remained in power throughout the 1970s, as president of military and then elected governments.

Repeated military coups during the 1970s and 1980s were followed by multiparty elections in the early 1990s. In 1984, Upper Volta changed its name to Burkina Faso, meaning "the country of honorable people."

Burkina Faso's high population density and limited natural resources result in poor economic prospects for the majority of its citizens. Recent unrest in Cote d'Ivoire and northern Ghana has hindered the ability of several hundred thousand seasonal Burkinabé farm workers to find employment in neighboring countries.

Source: The World Factbook, 2014


The school week runs from Monday through Saturday. Public education is not free and many children's parents cannot afford to send them. There also is a shortage of schools in the country and even those who can afford to send their children may not be able to. According to UNICEF, only 81 percent of students reach the fifth grade.

However, education is very important for the people of Burkina Faso; it is seen as the only vehicle out of poverty. Parents believe that education is the key to a well-paying job and therefore a better future. In Burkina Faso the educated are held in high regard. An educated child has a strong influence in the community and whatever he or she says is accepted and believed compared with a non-educated person's words. Education has strongly contributed to the well-being of the people and the nation.

In the recent past, boys had an edge over girls in their ability to obtain an education. But recently, the government policy has been to raise the rate of education for girls. There now tends to be a gender balance regarding who has access to education. Through both formal and non-formal education, all are taught to be respectful, polite, obedient, courageous and hard workers.  Responsibility, family values and dignity are emphasized.


The constitution provides for freedom of religion and the government does not tolerate its abuse. Islam, Christianity and traditional indigenous religions are practiced freely without government interference. There is no official state religion and the government neither subsidizes nor favors any particular religion. The practice of a particular faith is not known to entail any advantage or disadvantage in the political arena, the civil service, the military or the private sector.

The law provides religious groups freedom of expression in their publications and broadcasts unless the judicial system determines that they are harming public order or committing slander; this has never occurred.

Foreign missionary groups operate freely and face no special restrictions. The government neither forbids missionaries from entering the country nor restricts their activities; however, missionary groups occasionally face complicated bureaucratic procedures in pursuit of particular activities. For example, some Christian medical missionaries have difficulty operating in the country because of a partial restriction on foreign physicians. But the restrictions are not aimed at religious groups.

Religious instruction is not offered in public schools; it is limited to private schools and to the home. Muslim, Catholic and Protestant groups operate primary and secondary schools. The government monitors both the nonreligious curriculum and the qualifications of teachers employed at these schools. Unlike other private schools, religious schools pay no taxes if they do not conduct any lucrative activities. The government reviews the curriculum of such schools to ensure that religiously oriented schools offer the full standard academic curriculum.

Source: International Religious Freedom Report, released in 2012 by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.



Burkina Faso has more than 60 ethnic groups, each with their own social and cultural distinctions. Art made by the Mossi, Bobo and Lobi are the most famous. The Mossi are known for their antelope masks; the Bobo make large butterfly masks; and the Lobi carve wood. Burkina Faso is a leader in African art and culture and hosts the largest craft market in Africa.


Burkina Faso is home to 60 different ethnic groups, each with their own variety of folk music. Unlike most African countries, Burkina Faso has not yet had a popular national style. The Semaine Nationale de la Culture, held every two years since 1983, is a music festival that has helped produce the country's few stars, including Kaboré Roger, Simporé Maurice and Black So Man.

The Mande people of the southwest are known for balafon (xylophone) music, while the large, centrally located Mossi and their griots retain ancient royal courts and courtly music. The Fulbe of the north use complex vocal techniques with clapping percussion.


Because of the diversity of ethnic groups in Burkina Faso, many cultural practices are observed. One of the most important and widespread customs is Rakiire (cross-ethnic joking).

Holidays and Festivals

New Year's Day, Jan. 1
Women's Day, March 8
Easter Monday, April 12
Labor Day, May 1
Independence Day, Aug. 5
Eid-ul-Fitr, follows the lunar calendar and moves ahead 11 days each year: Islamic celebration marking the end of the month of Ramadan.
Christmas, Dec. 25: Some prepare a special Christmas Day meal of chicken or mutton, decorate their homes with Christmas trees and attend church. On Dec. 23, Pere Noel (Father Christmas) comes into town to give out presents.

Sports and Games

Soccer, handball, cycling, basketball and boxing are popular in Burkina Faso.

Typical Foods

Most food in Burkina Faso comes with sauce. Staple foods are sorghum, millet, rice, maize, peanuts, potatoes, beans, yams and okra. Meat is not eaten often in the villages. Instead, villagers eat eggs and fish. Some fresh vegetables and fruits are available in towns. 

Mango Chutney

  • 6 large mangoes, not too ripe
  • 1 cup cider vinegar
  • 3-1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 3 cups raisins
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 lemon, ground whole
  • 1 orange, ground whole
  • 2 cloves garlic, mashed
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1-1/2 tsp. dry ginger or 1 inch ginger root, chopped 1/4 tsp. red pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 1-1/2 tsp. salt
  • juice of 5 limes
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • optional: apples, onions

Cook mangoes, vinegar, sugar and raisins until tender. Add all the other ingredients except the lime and lemon juices. Simmer for 1 hour or more until well blended. Add lime and lemon juices. Makes 3 pints.

You may also like this recipe for Zoom Koom, a refreshing drink from Burkina Faso that is literally translated as "flour water."



  • Bonjour (Hello)
  • Au revoir (Goodbye)
  • Comment-allez vous? (How are you?)
  • Je vais bien, merci. (I'm fine, thank you.)


  • Yamb kibaré? (How are you?)
  • Laafi  bala, La yamba? (I'm fine, and you?)
Compassion in Burkina Faso

Child Sponsorship Program

Children age 11 and younger meet at the child development center for 8 hours on Thursdays; 12-to-14-year-olds meet for 4 hours on Thursdays and 4 hours on Saturdays. Children age 15 and older attend the center for 4 hours on Saturdays. Primary schools do not have classes on Thursdays, so that is when the younger children attend the child development center. Secondary school children do not have classes on Thursday afternoons and Saturdays, so these are the two periods when they attend the center.

Each child receives breakfast, which consists of milk, bread and porridge, and lunch, which consists of rice, beans, sagabo (a local food made of millet or corn flour) and spaghetti. Additional nutritional support such as rice, maize and oil is provided for extremely needy families.

Extracurricular activities offered include camps and field trips to museums and national parks. The children also have the opportunity to participate in community service, such as planting trees and cleaning up at the child development center and in the community.

Several areas of vocational training are offered to adolescents, including mechanics, hairdressing, sewing, soap making, gardening and animal breeding.

Parents are offered classes on hygiene, malaria prevention, reproductive health and nutrition two or three times a year, as well as training on income-generating activities, such as food and grain selling and tool provision.

Visit the Compassion blog to read about life in Burkina Faso and see how life in the country is viewed through the eyes of a child.

Burkina Faso Facts and Figures
Capital Ouagadougou

18,365,123 (2014 estimate) 

Note: Estimates for this country take into account the effects of excess mortality due to AIDS, which results in lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality, higher death rates, and lower population growth rates than otherwise expected.


French (official), native African languages belonging to Sudanic family spoken by 90 percent of the population.
Religions Muslim 60.5%, Christian 23.2% (Roman Catholic 19%, Protestant 4.2%), animist 15.3% (2006 estimate)
Literacy rate

Definition: age 15 and over can read and write.

Male: 36.7%

Female: 21.6%

(2007 estimate)

Percentage of population using improved drinking water sources

Urban: 96.4%

Rural: 74.1%
(2011 estimate)
Percentage of population using adequate sanitation facilities

Urban: 50.1%

Rural: 6.5%
(2011 estimate)
Climate Tropical; warm, dry winters; hot, wet summers
Percentage of population urbanized 26.5%
(2011 estimate)
Life expectancy

Male: 52.77 years

Female: 56.85 years

(2014 estimate)

Under-5 mortality rate 102/1,000
(2012 estimate)
GDP per capita $1,200 (2009 estimate)
Monetary unit Communaute Financiere Africaine franc (XOF)
Number of people living with HIV/AIDS 114,500 (2012 estimate)
Percentage of population living below
$1.25 a day
45% (2007-11)

Sources for facts: The World Factbook, 2014; The State of the World's Children, 2014