Burundi

Burundi: Malaria the leading cause of death

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NAIROBI, 19 February (IRIN) - Malaria, which for years plagued only the low-lying parts of Burundi, has now surfaced in the highlands, and constitutes the leading cause of death in the country, health officials said on Tuesday at an annual event held to mark efforts to eradicate the disease.
Iteka, a Burundi human rights organization, reported on Tuesday that the number of malaria cases had grown from 200,000 in 1984 to three million in 2002. It said malaria patients accounted for half the number of people seeking medical attention, and between 30 percent and 50 percent of hospital patients were suffering from malaria.

Iteka quoted the leader of the national project to fight vitamin deficiencies, Dr Jerome Ndaruhutse, as saying malaria was impeding development, because those struck down by it spent long periods away from work. Iteka said statistics for 2002-2003 showed that the worst-affected parts of the highlands were Gitega and Ngozi.

However, the battle against malaria was being won, it said, by virtue of the drug, Co-artem. Iteka recalled, however, that when it had first been introduced in Burundi, there had been some public resistance, because it was deemed too expensive and had not been approved for general use by the health ministry.

Iteka quoted the director-general of the health ministry, Dr Jean Rirangira, as saying that the ministries of agriculture and livestock, education, the environment, public health, interior, as well as NGOs, all needed to be involved in the effort to overcome the disease.

[ENDS]

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