|The Burundian health care system is rudimentary
and medical facilities are limited even in the cities. More than two million
people have no access to formal health care. The life expectancy in Burundi
is 40.3 years, one of the lowest in the world, because of poverty, disease
and ethnic strife. There is also a very high birth rate in Burundi; half
the population is under the age of 15.
There are very few doctors in rural areas: most doctors practise in Bujumbura or Gitega. In the cities, there are more hospitals and doctors in private practice, but even these numbers are inadequate. There are also constant shortages of medical equipment and supplies.
|About 60% of the population lacks access to safe
drinking water. The sources of water are usually streams, springs and lakes
and these waters may be contaminated. Cholera, dysentery, hepatitis A and
bilharzia (a disease caused by parasites in the bloodstream) are associated
with contaminated drinking water. Insects, including mosquitoes and several
types of flies, spread malaria, yellow fever and sleeping sickness. Malnutrition
and the disease kwashiorkor (caused by a protein-deficient, high-starch
diet) result in high infant mortality. Tuberculosis is common in overcrowded
areas and AIDS is spreading in the population.
Women and children face special health hazards. On average, women have seven children. Inadequate nutrition increases the health risks for women who are pregnant. Women often die in childbirth. Although family planning services are offered by government and private clinics, fewer than 10% of women utilize these services, mainly because of cultural and religious prohibitions, low literacy rates and the scarcity of facilities in rural areas.
|Several feeding centres run by international organizations
help children suffering from malnutrition, but often it is difficult to
reach the most needy, since they live in remote areas.
People use traditional remedies to treat diseases.
Potions made from leaves, roots, bark, fruit and herbs may be taken orally
or rubbed on the skin. Sometimes people use a combination of available
health care and traditional therapy.