“I had never been sick like this,” said Suavis Ndayiziga.
“I spent three days not knowing where I was. If you have malaria symptoms, you need to get treatment as quickly as possible.”
Malaria is a leading cause of death in Burundi. In the first quarter of 2019 malaria cases increased by 59 percent, compared to the same period the previous year. Some 4.7 million cases were recorded in the first six months of the year, representing nearly half of the population. Despite this, the mortality rate was halved thanks to large-scale preparedness and treatment programmes.
In 2020 health teams have spent many months racing to ensure the country is once again prepared. Thanks to the government of Burundi, UNDP, the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (the Global Fund), UNICEF and USAID more than 6.8 million bed nets have been distributed. Mobile clinics are ready to deploy in remote communities and indoor residual spraying has targeted nine of the most affected districts.
And new health crises have been emerging. In August 2019, the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which has claimed 3,456 lives, spread to South Kivu province, bordering Burundi. A national health crisis centre was quickly established within the Burundi Ministry of Health, supported by the World Health Organization (WHO), UNDP and the Global Fund. Despite fears an outbreak could overwhelm Burundi’s fragile health system and derail malaria control, containment appears to be working.
Then, on 31 March, Burundi confirmed its first cases of COVID-19.
Fighting on all fronts
COVID-19 threatens to hamper the malaria response in many ways. Both diseases have similar…