Burundi: Malaria epidemic kills 700 people, infects millions

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Health experts say a malaria epidemic in the country has killed at least 700 people and infected 1.8 million.

A joint survey conducted by Burundi health experts and the World Health Organisation (WHO) revealed the figures this week, highlighting the number of registered cases since the start of the year. The government says it needs at least $31 million to fight the epidemic.

 

Burundi devastated by malaria epidemic

The figures emerging from Burundi make for worrying reading, in a country that doesn’t need any more crises to deal with. According to WHO, 8.2 million people in Burundi were affected by malaria in 2016. For a country of less than 11 million people, that equals 73 percent of the nation’s total population. More than 3,800 people died from the disease last year.

Meanwhile, the figures for 2017 so far add up to a 17 percent increase in confirmed cases, which illustrates the growing problem in Burundi.

 

Climate change a contributing factor

UN officials have cited climate change as a contributing factor in the rapid spread of infections. An increase of marshland, used for rice growing, and misuse of mosquito nets are also believed to have contributed to the epidemic. However, now their attention turns to battling the disease as Burundi’s antimalaria stocks rapidly run out.

Getting humanitarian aid into the country might be a challenge, though. Burundi has been in political turmoil since 2015, when President Pierre Nkurunziza announced he would run for a third term in office. Hundreds have died in brutal conflicts since then and almost 500,000 have fled the country.

The crisis has also severely hurt the country’s economy, including a 54 percent cut to the government’s health budget. Last year, the EU also stopped sending aid to the Burundi government due to the violence and human rights violations taking place in the country.

Burundi has largely isolated itself from the international community since the civil conflict broke out, but now it finds itself pleading for aid to avert a national health crisis.

 

Featured image: Public domain

About Aaron Brooks

Aaron Brooks is a UK journalist who wants to cut out the international agendas in news. Spending his early years in both England and Northern Ireland he saw the difference between reality and media coverage at an early age. After graduating from the University of Chester with a BA in journalism, his travels revealed just how large the gap between news and the real world can be. As Editor-in-Chief at East Africa Monitor, it’s his job to provide a balanced view of what’s going on in the region for English-speaking audiences.