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.
  Did you know?
Some herbal remedies require the skill of an abafumu, a practitioner believed to have special powers. For the medicines to be effective, the abafumu must pronounce incantations and give special instructions to both the sick person and family members or caregivers.