Despite War, Disease Still Leading Cause of Death, Disability in Burundi
Despite a 10-year civil war in Burundi, diseases remained the major causes of disability and mortality in three provinces surveyed by the International Rescue Committee (IRC).
Presenting the results of the 2002 survey on Monday (September 22) in the capital, Bujumbura, the IRC reported that diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis, leprosy, polio and measles accounted for the largest number of disabilities in the provinces of Bujumbura Rural, Makamba and Muyinga.
The IRC carried out the survey to establish causes of disability and mortality rates in a conflict-ridden country.
Out of 169 disabled people in Muyinga, from a sample of 2,068 people, 45 percent became disabled due to diseases that could be prevented or treated. A similar situation was observed in Makamba, with diseases accounting for 59 percent of the disabled, and in Bujumbura Rural, where diseases accounted for the 61 percent of the disabled.
Most of the disabled interviewed during the survey gave various reasons for their lack of access to medical care, IRC said. The major reasons included high costs of medical care, long distances to health services and ignorance.
Some patients failed to seek medical aid because they believed the disease would disappear by itself or chose to consult traditional healers instead, going to health centres only when it was too late, IRC reported.
IRC also decried the sale of tuberculosis and leprosy medicine in some health centres when the drugs were normally available free of charge.
War was the other cause of disabilities in the three provinces. IRC said that out of 209 people in Makamba, 18 percent were disabled as a result of the war.
War also accounted for 12.9 percent of deaths in the three provinces. Although the high mortality rates for children (2 per 1,000 per month in Makamba, 3.4 in Muyinga, and 3.5 in Bujumbura Rural) were blamed on diseases, war accounted for 29 percent of deaths in children aged more than four years in Bujumbura Rural, and 12 percent in Makamba.
The IRC found that the cases of disabilities varied from loss of limbs, loss of sight and speech, to limited capacity to learn or understand issues.
The IRC survey was conducted with financial support from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in Atlanta.
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