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Life from a Village Overcrowded Due to Insurgency

Two years ago, Pissila was a quiet farming town in Burkina Faso, unfamiliar with the violence that was stirring further north. Now an influx of displaced people has changed life dramatically for its 15,000 inhabitants. As deadly attacks on civilians by jihadist groups with links to al Qaeda and Islamic State have surged, 30,000 people have poured into the town seeking refuge, trebling the population, straining resources and leaving authorities struggling to cope. Much of the work of housing the newcomers has been shouldered by ordinary people, such has been the speed of the rise in violence in a once calm country. Lines snake outwards from the town’s central water well and from a food distribution centre set up by the U.N.’s World Food Program. Residents’ houses are crammed with people, many of whom sleep dozens to a small room on thin mats among piles of emergency water or food supplies stacked against the walls. The unlucky ones sleep outside.