Seven months before the presidential and legislative elections, Burkina Faso’s government is facing a rising tide of frustration and lack of faith among citizens over the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. At the heart of these worries is how authorities handled, some would say botched, the treatment of the country’s first recorded death (and the first in sub-Saharan Africa) due to the disease.
Rose Marie Compaoré, an opposition member of parliament and the second vice-president of the National Assembly, died two days after she went in for a routine diabetes check-up on March 16. Medical professionals who spoke with Le Monde said Compaoré’s death was just one of many preventable deaths arising from the government’s lack of preparation.
The fallout from this scandal has drastically weakened public trust in official authorities.
At the outset of the pandemic, no laboratory capable of administering COVID-19 tests was ready in the capital. Suspected patients would need to be sent to Bobo-Dioulasso, more than 350 kilometers west of Ouagadougou, resulting in test result delays of up to three days. The situation was made worse by lying: on April 21, the National Assembly summoned the minister of health to question her on the government’s handling of the outbreak. The minister, Claudine Lougué, told parliament health authorities had met with Amado Compaoré following his wife’s death and disinfected the family’s house.
An investigative report from the bimonthly Courrier Confidentiel revealed these claims to be a fabrication, with Lougué herself alleging in the magazine’s columns that she was made to perjure herself on government insistence.
The country is already contending with a dire humanitarian crisis.
The fallout from this scandal has drastically weakened public trust in official authorities, with some Burkinabe even buying into the false notion that COVID-19 cases are being deliberately inflated. Doubts like these could prove deadly in a country already contending with a dire humanitarian crisis caused by ongoing conflict in the Sahel, which has made it difficult for Burkinabe citizens to access healthcare services.