Poverty Eradication in Burundi
Ranked 185th out of 189 countries on the 2019 United Nations Development Program’s human development index, Burundi is amongst the world’s poorest countries with 65% of the population living below the poverty line. Meanwhile, Burundi has the second lowest GDP in the world and the highest hunger score across the globe according to the 2018 World Food Security Report. However, poverty eradication in Burundi is possible through the granting of energy access.

Burundians live a very agrarian lifestyle with 80% of the population having employment in the agricultural sector and more than 87% of the population living in rural areas. Of the population of 11.7 million people, only 3% have access to electricity. Meanwhile, 90% of energy access in Burundi is dependent on biogas via the burning of firewood. This is not sustainable as 50% of the population remains food insecure, and the country’s total annual food production only covers 55 days per person each year.

The Challenges of Burning Firewood in Burundi

Burundian families spend on average four hours each day sourcing firewood for basic tasks like food preparation. However, this practice comes at the expense of:

  1. Education: Many children opt out of school to contribute to the sourcing of firewood. Only 32% of Burundi’s children complete a lower secondary education.
  2. The Environment: Sourcing firewood contributes to deforestation, and thus increases carbon dioxide levels. Resulting smoke contributes to poor air quality.
  3. Family Health & Nutrition: Burundi has the highest level of malnutrition in the world. In fact, 56% of Burundian children are stunted and the median age of the population is 17.3 years. The cost of malnutrition in Burundi is recorded at USD$102 million per year.

The Safe Access to Fuel and Energy (SAFE) Initiative

For a more sustainable program, the government joined with the World Food Program (WFP) in 2017 as a part of the Safe Access to Fuel and Energy (SAFE) initiative that introduced fuel-efficient stoves to over 18 countries in the region, promoting energy access for poverty reduction in Burundi.

So far, this development has sparked great progress in Burundi in the following areas:

  1. About 485,000 persons and counting have already benefitted from the fuel-efficient stoves.
  2. The SAFE program has implemented institutional stoves that have already reached 100,000 children and 147 primary schools in Burundi.
  3. The stoves now allow for each batch of firewood to have up to five times the utility it had before, with each Burundian family having an 11.5 kg daily reduction in the need for firewood.

Still, the country remains primarily dependent on biogas from firewood and this initiative has only lessened its costs to society rather than eliminating firewood dependence. As a result, the Burundian government has now turned towards alternative innovations to promote energy access for poverty eradication in Burundi.

Fortunately, the location and climate of Burundi lend well to renewable energy generation mainly through hydroelectric and solar energy. The government of Burundi is actively partnering with energy investors to build its private sector and grow its other industries, commerce, health, education, tourism, fisheries and transport sectors. Expanding beyond a primarily agrarian society promises substantial growth for the economy of Burundi, providing a framework to lift Burundians out of the poverty cycle.

Hydroelectric Power Energy Access in Burundi

Located in the heart of Africa’s Great Lakes Region, surrounded by far-stretching rivers such as Malagarasi (475 km) and the Ruzizi (117 km), Burundi has only utilized only 32 MW of its 1,700 MW hydroelectric energy potential. With only 29 of 159 potential hydropower sites already explored, Burundi is still relying on outdated hydroelectric power technologies that can only serve 9% of the population. Moving forward, Burundi has begun to make strides in energy access for poverty eradication in Burundi through the following hydroelectric power development projects:

  1. Rusumo Falls Hydropower Project: This Run-of-the-River (RoR) system has an 80MW capacity and three generating units. The Rusumo Power Company (RPCL) developed it with financial support from multi-national development leaders along with the governments of Burundi, Congo and Tanzania. The plant is located on the border of Rwanda and Tanzania with transmission lines interconnecting them with Burundi. Its production began in January 2017.
  2. Ruzizi III: With a capacity of 147 MW and intended 675GWh of average energy production, the Ruzizi III greenfield hydropower project is a part of an existing hydropower cascade that the Kivu Lake feeds. One of the largest infrastructure development projects in the region, Burundi, DRC and Rwanda each have 10% ownership of this partnership with a private investor.
  3. Ruzizi IV: A partnership among Burundi, the DRC and Rwanda, the Ruzizi Hydropower Plant Project IV has been commissioned to be a 287-MW capacity hydropower project. The African Development Bank Group has already approved a USD$8.9 million grant to support the development.

Solar Power Energy Access in Burundi

Being located on the equator, with temperatures ranging from 17 to 23˚C, altitudes varying from 772 meters to 2,670 meters, and an average 2,000 kWh/m2.year of sunshine, Burundi holds unique potential for solar power energy development. The Burundian authorities look forward to exploring this option soon.

Granted success, millions of households and industries in the region will have energy access for poverty eradication in Burundi. Reliable and widespread access to electricity should improve the quality of basic social services like health, education and security services in the region. Additionally, there will be a reduction in carbon emissions, lessening of deforestation from lower dependence on firewood and thereby an increase in the living conditions of the regional population, breaking the poverty cycle in Burundi.

Rebecca Harris
Photo: Flickr

American Expenditure on EntertainmentExpenditure by the average American consumer unit (henceforth household) each year is substantial compared to what the poor in the world spend. Of the 200 million or so rich people globally, Americans make up the majority; in this decade, as determined by those in the World Data Lab, “the world’s top market segment will be America’s rich” (italicization added). According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Expenditure Survey (BLS CEX), entertainment spending made up 5.3% of the total average annual expenditure of American households in 2018. American spending on entertainment is considerable.

Collectively: Average American Households

Looking at the CEX, in 2018, average annual expenditures rose to $61,224, compared to $60,060 the year before. More specifically, spending on entertainment (EE) increased to $3,226, from $3,203 in 2017. (Inflation was higher than expenditure numbers in 2018. Nevertheless, consider that thousands of dollars went toward entertainment.) There were 131,439,000 households in the U.S. in 2018. When one multiplies that number by EE, one gets $424,022,214,000; hundreds of billions of dollars were spent on entertainment.

That amount of money is more considerable than the gross domestic product (GDP) in 2018 for the entire country of the United Arab Emirates (where Dubai and the tallest building in the world are), which was over $421 billion.

So what does the category of entertainment expenditure include in the BLS CEX?

  1. Fees and admissions, including admissions to sporting events and movies; fees for social organizations; recreational lessons; and recreation expenses on trips.

  2. Television, radio and sound equipment, including video game hardware and musical instruments.

  3. Pets, toys, hobbies and playground equipment.

  4. Other entertainment equipment and services, including indoor exercise equipment, camping equipment, boats, photographic equipment and supplies and fireworks.

Just $2 billion of the $72.56 billion that Americans spent on pets in 2018 is what Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, was at a minimum seeking to raise as of 7 August. That amount could immunize both those with high susceptibility to the coronavirus and health care workers in Gavi-supported countries, with doses that would be available for use where needed most. Gavi is a public-private partnership that has helped to immunize hundreds of millions of children since 2000; partners include the World Health Organization, United Nations Children’s Fund and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

America’s Rich

By the end of 2020, there will be an average of $194 to spend per day per wealthy American; this is put forth in a Brookings Institution blog. Possibly an appropriate juxtaposition, in 2018, households and non-profit institutions serving households (NPISHs) final consumption expenditure per capita was $189 in Burundi, a country where most of the population is poor and which has the second lowest GDP in the world.

Using data from the 2018 CEX, one may learn something else concerning American expenditure on entertainment. The top 10% of highest income (before taxes) households in the U.S. had an average of 3.2 persons and spent an average annual expenditure of $142,554. That amounted to around $122 spent per day per person: each person spent approximately $6.64 a day on entertainment. Notice that the $122 is less than the $194 of America’s wealth. 

If each of the 42,134,400 persons of the above top 10% were to have given around $1.20, less than a fifth of what they expended on average on entertainment per day, that would be enough (at least in hard numbers) to meet the net funding requirements from June to November of this year about the World Food Programme in Burundi.

The Bigger Picture

Entertainment may not in and of itself be bad or good. One way that American expenditure on entertainment affects Americans is the amount of time they spend on entertainment. For example, in 2019, the BLS reports that watching television on average took up the most leisure time. Although Americans possibly can inform themselves about the poor in the world via television, Americans could use some of the time spent watching television to ask their representatives to support legislation that could help reduce poverty.

Kylar Cade
Photo: Flickr

Maternal Health in Refugee Camps
The African country of Burundi exists between the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Tanzania. Despite being slightly smaller than the U.S. state of Maryland, Burundi is home to over 10 million people. The poverty-stricken nation, independent since 1962, is currently one of the poorest countries in the world, and it relies predominantly on aid from outside donors to support its people and economy. Considering the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Burundi, maternal health in refugee camps in Burundi is a significant concern that requires attention.

The Humanitarian Crisis in Burundi

Burundi was recovering from a 10-year-long civil war when the nation descended into turmoil in 2015. The widely contended decision of President Pierre Nkurunziza to run for an unconstitutional third term in office sparked a period of intense political unrest and violence in Burundi. Occupied with dismantling resistance efforts, the government of Burundi failed to meet the basic humanitarian needs of many of its citizens. As of 2015, estimates determined that an alarming 67.3% of the population experiences undernourishment. Additionally, ongoing climate hazards continue to destroy life-sustaining farmlands and livelihoods in rural communities. Coinciding food insecurity and economic decline have also led to severe outbreaks of disease.

Burundian Refugee Camps

The instability afflicting Burundi has displaced nearly half a million people, forcing hundreds of thousands of Burundi’s citizens into refugee camps in Burundi and into neighboring countries. The quality of life in refugee camps is often poor due to overcrowding and limited resources.

Maternal Health in Refugee Camps

The influx of Burundi refugees fleeing to neighboring African countries strains pre-existing, inadequate public health infrastructures. The rise in the number of refugees seeking sanctuary in refugee camps accompanies the increased demand for health care workers and services and essential medical supplies.

The situation is particularly concerning for women as limited access to quality maternal health care in refugee camps results in alarmingly poor maternal health outcomes. Burundian women in refugee camps face high maternal mortality rates, a lack of birth preparedness and maternal services and poor treatment of obstetric complications.

Addressing the Situation

The Burundi refugee situation stands as one of the most underfunded humanitarian crises in the world. The U.N. Refugee Agency, UNICEF and other humanitarian organizations continue to fight for funding and donor support in efforts to ensure that refugees in struggling refugee camps throughout Burundi and its neighboring nations can meet their basic needs.

The U.N. Refugee Agency works specifically to improve maternal health in Burundi refugee camps. By ensuring that skilled birth attendants are available and supporting health workers with clinical training and necessary medical supplies, maternal mortality rates in refugee camps have decreased in recent years. The U.N. Refugee Agency also works to promote other central aspects of maternal health care for Burundian refugees by increasing access to care before, during and after pregnancy. Additionally, it works on granting testing and treatment of cervical cancer and fistula to women along with providing education about sexual and reproductive health and health services.

In addition to these efforts by the U.N. Refugee Agency, the United Nations Population Fund has improved maternal health in refugee camps by distributing emergency reproductive health kits, hygiene supplies and contraceptives. For Burundian refugee Chantal Uwamahoro, support from this international agency ensured the safe, healthy delivery of her baby in a fully operational maternity ward in the Mahama Refugee Camp. Uwamahoro did not expect to deliver her baby normally, as she had been walking for days to reach a camp, carrying her son on her back. However, the humanitarian efforts of the United Nations Population Fund ensured the health of both her and her baby.

Moving Forward

Though political tension and humanitarian crises endure in the nation of Burundi following the tumultuous 2020 presidential election and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, various agencies’ work to improve the quality of life in refugee camps is critical, as are efforts to better maternal health in refugee camps and bolster maternal health outcomes across the region.

Alana Castle
Photo: Flickr

Countries with CholeraCholera is a disease of inequity that unduly sickens and kills the poorest and most vulnerable people – those without access to clean water and sanitation.” – Carissa F. Etienne, the Director of Pan American Health Organization.

Profuse vomiting, diarrhea and leg cramps, followed by intense dehydration and shock, are all symptoms of cholera. It is a highly contagious waterborne illness that can cause death within hours if left untreated. Cholera is mainly caused by drinking unsafe water, having poor sanitation and inadequate hygiene, all of which allow the toxigenic bacteria Vibrio Cholerae to infect a person’s intestine.

While cholera can be treated successfully through simple methods, such as replacing the lost fluid from excessive diarrhea, there are still many people around the globe struggling with the disease. There are 2.9 million cases and 95,000 deaths each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The countries that have the greatest risk of a cholera outbreak are the ones that are going through poverty, war and natural disasters. These factors cause poor sanitation and crowded conditions, which help the spread of the disease.

Yemen

Yemen is known for being one of the countries with the most Cholera cases. The number of cholera cases in Yemen has been increasing since January 2018; the cumulative reported cases from January 2018 to January 2020 is 1,262,722, with 1,543 deaths. The number of cases in Yemen marked 1,032,481 as of 2017, which was a sharp increase from the 15,751 cases and 164 deaths in 2016. On a positive note, the numbers showed a decrease by February 19, 2020; 56,220 cases were recorded, with 20 associated deaths.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)

The DRC is another country with a high number of Cholera cases. There were 30,304 suspected cases of cholera and 514 deaths in 2019. Although the number of 2019 cases was smaller than that of 2017 (56,190 cases and 1,190 deaths), the 2019 data showed an increase from 2018 (27,269 cases and 472 deaths). As of May 13, 2020, 10,533 cases and 147 deaths were reported; most of these reported cases originated from Lualaba regions, Haut Katanga and North and South Kivu.

Somalia

Somalia also stands as one of the countries with the most Cholera cases. From December 2017 to May 30, 2020, there were 13,528 suspected cholera cases and 67 associated deaths in Somalia. These reported cases are from regions of Hiran, Lower Shabelle, Middle Shabelle and Banadir.

Other than the three countries listed above, there are many others that are also going through Cholera outbreaks. Uganda reported a new Cholera outbreak in the Moroto district in May 2020; a month later, 682 cases and 92 deaths have been reported. Burundi also declared a new cholera outbreak this past March; 70 new cases were reported.

Helping Cholera Outbreaks

Many non-profit organizations like UNICEF are constantly working towards helping these countries and many more. A good example of a country that has shown a great decrease in cholera cases following external aid is Haiti.

Haiti experienced the first large-scale outbreak of cholera with over 665,000 cases and 8,183 deaths. After a decade of efforts to fight against cholera, the country recently reported zero new cases of cholera for an entire year. An example of how UNICEF helped Haiti is by supporting the Government’s Plan for Cholera Elimination and focusing on rapid response to diarrhea cases. However, the country still needs to keep effective surveillance systems and remain as a cholera-free country for two more years to get validation from the World Health Organization (WHO) of the successful elimination of the disease.

Alison Choi
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in Burundi
Burundi is a landlocked country in East Africa with a dense population of 11.89 million people. Due to overpopulation, an ongoing humanitarian crisis and more than 73% of the population in poverty, healthcare in Burundi is unstable, and the people of Burundi are highly susceptible to the wide variety of diseases that are plaguing the country. 

Current Health Risks in Burundi

Accessibility to healthcare in Burundi continues to be an issue for civilians, shown through the rise in deaths that diseases and epidemics caused. COVID-19 has affected the country as a whole and posed a threat to the already fragile healthcare system with records of 104 cases and one death as of June 16, 2020, although the need for more resources and vaccines was already in question long before this specific virus. Without proper treatment or preventative care, diseases like measles, malaria and many other infectious diseases put the population at risk.

In April 2019, the number of measles cases increased to 857 and refugees were reportedly spreading it to communities from refugee camps. Meanwhile, there were 504 cases as of March 2020. Out of the 18 provinces of Burundi, 63% of those districts face a high risk of infection. Low immunity and vaccination rates are two factors putting communities in compromising positions.

Malaria is an ongoing epidemic in Burundi that has claimed the lives of more than 3,170 people, and it continues to spread. Reports determine that the number of cases is 1.2 million, showing a slight decline in cases in comparison to the 1.7 million in 2019. Malaria is treatable and preventable through vaccination and the proper medication; however, access to these supplies and resources is scarce.

Focusing on the Issue  

The numbers on infection and mortality rates of treatable and preventable diseases in Burundi show a need for redirection. Seeing this need, various organizations have proposed ways to put a spotlight on the lack of funding for healthcare systems and supplies and provide the funding necessary to see progress. Here are a few ways organizations are addressing this:

  • In April of 2020, the World Bank and International Development Association (IDA) put into motion a $5 million grant to prevent and counter the spread of COVID-19 and reinforce the preparedness of the health care system of Burundi as a whole. These funds will assist the country’s healthcare system in receiving necessary testing and treatments for existing diseases and epidemics. In coordination with this, the World Bank will disburse $160 billion over the span of 15 months to “protect the poor and vulnerable, support businesses and bolster economic recovery.
  • Dr. Norbert Mugabo, a medical officer from Cibitoke province, set out to vaccinate more than 17,000 children as part of a measles vaccination initiative in April of 2020. Dr. Mugabo hopes to reach children between the ages of 9 months and 15 years in light of the outbreak in November 2019.
  • The International Rescue Committee (IRC) set many goals to aid Burundi in 2020. It determined that its main avenue for providing all-around better healthcare is starting with the basics. For example, the IRC intends to rebuild hand washing stations, boosting hygiene and addressing sanitation issues. These small steps forward have the ability to make a big difference long term.

The healthcare system in Burundi lacks the resources and funding needed to help the overall population thrive. However, with the help of dedicated professionals such as Dr. Mugabo and organizations such as the World Bank and the IRC, change in a positive direction is right around the corner.

Katie Mote-Preuss
Photo: Flickr

Election in BurundiAmid a global pandemic, Burundi is on the brink of its first democratic transfer of power in its 58 years of independence. The country’s Constitutional Court will announce the official winner of the May 20 election on June 4, but the Burundi election commission has already declared Evariste Ndayishimiye, the candidate of the governing party, the winner. The commission has declared that Ndayishimiye won 68.72% of the votes cast, while his main opponent, Agathon Rwasa, gathered 24.19%.

The historic May 20 vote for president engaged 87.7% of registered voters, who cast their ballots after the campaigns of seven presidential hopefuls. This high turnout is momentous considering the low road density in the landlocked country. Inaccessible roads make traveling to polling places difficult, with the poor state of infrastructure in the country making travel even more costly. Such costs may be difficult for Burundians to grapple with, given the country’s near total dependence on coffee subsistence farming, the production of which has declined in recent years.

Campaign Controversy

Leading up to the election in Burundi, the 2020 presidential campaigns were not without controversy. According to Human Rights Watch, the preceding year included more than 60 political killings and 200 arrests of perceived political opponents. Rwasa, a longtime leader of a Burundian rebel group and a candidate in the 2015 presidential race against the incumbent, called for profound change throughout the election. The spokesman for Rwasa’s party publicized the National Freedom Council’s boycott of the Burundi election commission’s announcement on the grounds of fraud and violence as the basis of Ndayishimiye’s win.

In addition to political controversy, the election in Burundi faced criticism for its call for in-person voting during the coronavirus pandemic. Days after the election, Burundi only had 42 cases of COVID-19, reporting just one death and 20 recoveries among these. However, the number of cases in the country doubled between May 17 and May 21, indicating that the election could have played a role in this increase.

Throughout the pandemic, Burundi has avoided imposing stringent restrictions in favor of advising its citizens to practice handwashing and to avoid mass gatherings, with the exception of campaign rallies. These rallies were one of the main platforms for information dissemination about candidates, as less than 2% of the country’s population has electricity in their homes, causing many Burundians to attend. The government’s one heavy-handed rule was imposed on foreign election observers, who were to be quarantined for 14 days upon arrival in the country, a possible tactic to dissuade observers from attending the election in Burundi at all.

Violence Before the Vote

The election in 2020 comes on the heels of the tumultuous 2015 election in Burundi. President Pierre Nkurunziza’s third-term bid violated the Constitution of Burundi’s two-term limit, provoking riots that culminated in a thwarted coup attempt. This insurgency prompted a violent suppression of the Burundian people and Nkurunziza’s political opponents. In the five years since the election, increasing violence in Burundi has led to the deaths of at least 1,200 people and the emigration of tens of thousands. This turmoil forced financial supporters of the country to cut political and financial ties, further entrenching it as one of the poorest countries in the world.

Economic isolation has put extreme financial stress on the government of Burundi, a burden that the government has imposed on its citizenry in recent years. Beginning in 2017, the government began demanding “contributions,” which it employed in part to fund the 2020 election. This contribution system was officially ended in 2019, but independent groups like the Imbonerakure youth militia have since demanded tributes in its place, exploiting even the seven out of 10 Burundians who live below the poverty line.

These human rights and economic abuses ratcheted up the pressure and significance of the 2020 presidential election, yielding a huge voter turnout in support of reform.

A New Face

While the declared winner Ndayishimiye is the candidate of the ruling party that backed Nkurunziza in his violent and lengthy reign, many Burundians showed up to the polls in support of political change. The people are participating politically to end the violence that has gripped Burundi throughout its occupation by Belgium, which ended in 1962, and the ensuing battles between the Hutu and Tutsi ethnic groups. After the first democratic election in Burundi in 1993, the Hutu president was assassinated by a Tutsi-led group of political opponents and traitorous cabinet members.

Burundi has yet to maintain peace after a transfer of power. The country is looking to the results of this election to usher in a peaceful and democratic transition between presidents. Whether Ndayishimiye rules independently or under the influence of Nkurunziza, who has been declared the “supreme guide for patriotism” by the Parliament of Burundi, the Burundian people will be turning to their new government for leadership. In practical terms, this leadership could implement an electrification plan to bring electricity to more Burundian homes and a plan to diversify the economy away from subsistence coffee farming. Voters in the 2020 election in Burundi are seeking an end to forced contributions, insight into governmental spending, a window for economic growth and peace as Burundi moves through the pandemic and into the future.

Annie Iezzi
Photo: Flickr

Cholera in BurundiThe World Health Organization (WHO) has identified more than 1,000 cases of cholera in cities across the Republic of Burundi. Burundi is an East African country that has been plagued by violence, disease and poor sanitation for years. Most of the population lives in rural areas where drinking water is unsafe and sanitation practices are nearly non-existent. This has created the perfect storm for cholera to spread quickly across the country. It has led to six deaths from an otherwise treatable disease. Below are nine facts about the outbreak of cholera in the Republic of Burundi.

9 Facts about Cholera in Burundi

  1. Cholera is a gastrointestinal infection caused by bacteria. Generally, it is attributed to unsafe drinking
    water and often associated with raw or undercooked fish. It is transmitted from person to person through oral-fecal contamination due to improper sanitation and poor hygiene.
  2. This outbreak started in a time of political peril in Burundi. Rebel forces and the country’s army are fighting across rural areas, which is displacing people. Instability and lack of security make it difficult for people to find safety and sources of income. This has created a high level of poverty for Burundi’s people and exacerbated the poor water conditions.
  3. Most patients are displaced persons (IDPs) from rural Bujumbura. Fighting in Bujumbura became so violent that the government moved the capital to Gitega in February 2019. When the capital moved, many people were left without the support and resources of the government.
  4. Treatment usually takes several days per patient. Patients typically present symptoms related to dehydration. Dehydration occurs because of the excessive vomiting and diarrhea that comes with cholera. Patients are usually treated with an oral rehydration solution made up of a sugar and salt mixture in clean water. In extreme situations, patients may need intravenous fluids and antibiotics.
  5. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has three treatment centers for cholera in Burundi where professionals are trained and supervised. The goal of these facilities is to provide free patient care and increase the local public health staff. These centers provide care when most of the hospitals are unable to respond to the needs of cholera patients. MSF has also set up a 50-person treatment center in Bujumbura.
  6. Sterilization is a very important part of reducing the spread of cholera, so the MSF staff uses a chlorine solution to disinfect the center. This reduces the chances of another outbreak or infecting the staff. This solution can also be used to disinfect the homes of families who have been infected.
  7. Disinfecting isn’t the only solution to preventing the spread of cholera because the problem is directly related to the distribution of water. Without proper containment of poor water sources, the disease will continue to spread. To ameliorate the risks of cholera related to unsafe drinking water, MSF installed two water distribution bladders in the most affected areas. These bladders supply 30,000 liters of potable water.
  8. UNICEF has been providing cholera kits to people in Burundi. There are four different kinds of kits to help with various aspects of need. UNICEF has also established two cholera treatment centers to control the spread of the disease.
  9. To avoid contamination, experts suggest drinking disinfected water and eating a balanced, thoroughly cooked diet. Organizations like WHO are emphasizing the importance of washing hands frequently with soap and water or an alcohol-based sanitizer to reduce the risk of transmission.

Cholera is an easily treatable and preventable disease that occurs in poverty-stricken areas with poor sanitation. Many organizations have reached out to add potable water sources and aid by training the people of Burundi to treat and prevent the disease themselves. With rebel fighting and insurgent forces crossing the country, the disease is projected to spread to further areas of rural poverty.

Kaylee Seddio, PhD
Photo: Iwacu

Rural Poverty in Burundi

Two civil wars and genocides in the 1970s and 1990s destroyed Burundi’s economy and increased poverty from 33 percent in 1993 to 67 percent in 2000. Burundi’s poverty rate remains at 65 percent today. At $700 in 2017, its GDP per capita is the lowest in the world. The agricultural industry, which makes up about 80 percent of the workforce, weakened during the civil wars. The most affected people are those in rural areas, where about 1.77 million are food insecure. The Burundi government, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and NGOs are working together to address rural poverty in Burundi. The goal of these efforts is to bring the economy back to its pre-war state.

IFAD’s Programs

IFAD — which has worked in the country since 1980 — has funded nine projects in Burundi totaling $141 million. Rural and agricultural development, as well as food security, are two main areas the IFAD focuses on. Almost 500,000 households directly benefit from these projects. Many of the initiatives began around 2009, several years after Burundi’s economic reconstruction gained traction.

Value Chain Development Program

The Value Chain Development Program began in 2010 and ends in 2019. The program benefits more than 77,000 households and costs $73 million. The main focus areas include reduced poverty and increased food security through agricultural value chain development and increased income for rural farmers. To date, 5,761 people have been trained on value chain development, seed multiplication and better animal husbandry techniques. Also, more than 6,400 acres of anti-erosion ditches have been dug.

Agricultural Intensification and Value-enhancing Support Project

Another program that addressed rural poverty in Burundi is the Agricultural Intensification and Value-Enhancing Support Project. This program began in 2009 and ends in 2019. It has helped more than 30,000 households in six provinces in the north and east of the capital city, Bujumbura.

After 450,000 refugees returned after political instability and violence lessened, the need for jobs increased. Rapid population growth, small land allotments and soil degradation made it difficult to sustain an income for rural farmers. Some of the results of the project include constructing 1,210 modern sheds for livestock, building 32 miles of roads to rehabilitated marshlands, providing more than 1,290 goats to poor households, planting more than 6 million trees and constructing 11,567 acres of anti-erosion ditches. The project also reduced the number of households living in extreme poverty by 7 percent and direct beneficiaries have enjoyed a 64 percent increase in income.

Vision 2025

Although rural poverty in Burundi is still a major issue, the government created Vision 2025 to set goals on addressing its high poverty rate. The government’s objectives are to reduce the poverty rate to 33 percent by 2025 and increase its GDP per capita. While the country’s dependence on agriculture and its heavy reliance on financial assistance pose threats to sustainable growth, with the help of the IFAD, NGOs and other organizations, Burundi could reach the goal of cutting its poverty rate in half by 2025.

Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Flickr

Burundi's Health Care
Burundi is a Central African nation, bordering the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania and Rwanda. Those living within the nation face a plethora of challenges from civil wars to disease and a general state of civil unrest. On top of this, Burundi‘s health care requires efforts to reduce the spread of disease and provide better care to those affected.

The State of Burundi’s Health Care

The fear of communicable diseases grew exponentially following the multiple Ebola outbreaks in the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo. This illuminated the glaring flaws in Burundi’s health care system and an overall lack of preparedness for such a potentially deadly epidemic.

USAID has stated that Burundi’s health care system faces a “lack of adequate infrastructure and human resources to meet urgent community health needs.” Although the inadequacies are plentiful and debilitating, with relentless efforts, some are providing hope by way of ingenuity in Burundi’s health care system

Malaria

There were reports of over 7 million malaria cases in Burundi within the first 10 months of 2019. This is roughly 64 percent higher than the total recorded cases for 2018. The cause of this spike is a subject of debate, with experts citing climate change and an unequipped health care system as possible culprits.

A protozoan parasite causes malaria. After a bite from an infected mosquito, the protozoan parasite invades the red blood cells. People infected with malaria often experience flu-like symptoms. In 2017, there were records of 219 million cases of malaria, along with approximately 435,000 deaths. The vast majority of these cases were in Africa.

Many Burundians have taken refuge from the malaria epidemic in neighboring Rwanda. Although advances in fighting the disease remain somewhat stagnant in Burundi, Rwanda is succeeding in limiting the outbreak. Rwanda began coating refugee camps and homes with indoor residual spray. Since then, Rwanda experienced 430,000 fewer cases after just one year utilizing this method. Burundi, with a similar socioeconomic state as Rwanda, leads many to believe these methods could be beneficial for great success in both countries.

Cholera

Beginning in June 2019, a cholera outbreak overcame the city of Bujumbura, the most densely populated city in Burundi. With over 1,000 cases recorded, this far exceeds the national yearly average of about 200 to 250.

Cholera is a highly contagious bacterial infection caused by coming into contact with fecal matter, which is commonplace in bodies of still water. The disease causes severe diarrhea, which almost inevitably leads to dehydration. It can progress exceptionally fast, necessitating medical care within hours of infection.

Even with cholera’s endemic level in the city of Bujumbura, there have been minimal deaths. This is in large part due to the development of three cholera treatment facilities within the area. Many of the medical facilities face the incapability of treating the disease. However, with minimal investment, the country could make drastic changes for the better.

Ebola

Although the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has not moved into Burundi as of yet, the risk is high. This is largely due to the fact that many Burundians work and trade in the neighboring DRC. The border town of Gatumba, for instance, averages 6,000 border crossings every weekday and 3,000 border crossings on the weekends.

Ebola, a contagious virus, spreads through contact with bodily fluids (such as blood, urine, breast milk, semen and fecal matter). Ebola is classified as a hemorrhagic fever virus. This is due to the fact that Ebola causes issues with the clotting of blood. The issues with clotting often lead to blood leaking from blood vessels within the body, causing internal bleeding.

In an attempt to spread awareness, a fleet of vans equipped with speakers and filled with UNICEF workers are traveling around Burundi and educating on ways to prevent the spread of Ebola. Many of those living in Burundi are unaware that things such as proper hand-washing techniques can be the difference between life and death. Through education and increased communication within the community, many are optimistic regarding Burundi’s fight against the spread of Ebola.

Although Burundi faces much to overcome, through proper allocation of resources and help from an international audience, Burundi’s health care system can flourish, saving countless lives.

Austin Brown
Photo: Flickr

Malaria treatment

At the young age of six years old, YouTube and comedy star Kacaman (aka Darcy Irakoze) just became the latest victim of malaria in Burundi. He was one of the biggest names in Burundi’s comedy scene and had thousands of views on YouTube. His videos, featuring the rural dirt floors and rusty villages of Burundi, were lighthearted and melodramatic skits starring himself and other comedians/actors. Darcy Irakoze is just one example of the need to improve malaria treatment in Burundi.

A Silent Crisis

Kacaman’s death brings to light an often-unspoken crisis: Burundi’s malaria epidemic. Nearly half of the country’s population has been affected by malaria this year. Of that number, 1800 have died from the disease. This staggering amount actually rivals the number of deaths from Ebola in the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Poor preventative measures have been the driving factors behind the epidemic. These include a lack of mosquito nets, the movement of the population with low immunity to malaria from mountain areas to city areas and various changes in climate. The crisis has received some attention from the World Health Organization and the United Nations, but it remains remarkably untouched as a result of the current leadership. Afraid of admitting weakness in health policies, President Nkurunziza is hesitant to admit he needs help increasing malaria treatment.

An Epidemic of the Poor

The brutal reality that a six-year-old boy in Burundi can access the internet and YouTube but not malaria treatment presents a serious call for action. Often referred to as the “epidemic of the poor,” malaria disproportionately affects poverty-stricken areas like Burundi because of the expense required to purchase preventative measures and medical treatment.

The disease presents many ramifications for family members of the sick. They deal with psychological pain, the strain on already tight budgets and job loss. Additionally, malaria damages the economic wellbeing of countries as it decreases the chances of tourism and foreign investment. This keeps poor countries in a vicious cycle because they are unable to provide enough funds for malaria treatments or to improve other aspects of their country.

What Is Being Done?

Innovations like the Kite patch offer promising improvement for malaria prevention. The patch works by making humans virtually invisible to mosquitoes for up to 6 hours, stopping any bites. The company is working to distribute the patch around the world through the Kite-Malaria-Free Campaign, but it still needs more funding. The World Health Organization has launched the “high burden high impact” campaign as a response to countries facing extremely large epidemics. This entails a more aggressive approach to preventing and treating malaria by working with national governments in each of the countries to create an organized and strategic approach.

Increasing prevention is still vital in the fight against malaria. Widespread distribution of mosquito nets and insecticide in areas where these items are inaccessible or too expensive could yield massive results. More effective antimalarial treatments are also needed to fight malaria. The problem of the developing resistance to antimalarials in certain populations needs to be addressed to increase the efficacy of the drugs. Finally, a successful malaria vaccination needs to be more accessible. A semi-effective vaccine has been developed, but the technology still requires some fine-tuning.

It is likely at least one child will have died from malaria in the last minute. Kacaman was one of those children. His death should inspire a revitalized passion and determination to conquer malaria. While some incredible advances have been made, more is needed. Hopefully, these efforts can make this world one where malaria treatment and prevention is just as viral as YouTube.

Hannah Stewart
Photo: Flickr