In its latest situation report, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said 5.7 million cases of malaria had been recorded in Burundi in 2019 — a figure roughly equal to half its entire population.
Of those cases, a total of 1,801 died from the mosquito-born disease in Burundi between Jan. 1 and July 21, OCHA said.
The tiny country of 11 million people in the African Great Lakes region has still not declared a national emergency, despite OCHA saying the outbreak crossed “epidemic proportions” in May.
“The national malaria outbreak response plan, which is currently being validated, has highlighted a lack of human, logistical and financial resources for effective response,” OCHA said in its latest weekly bulletin on humanitarian emergencies.
A lack of preventative measures like mosquito nets, climatic changes and increased movements of people from mountain areas with low immunity to malaria were driving the crisis, OCHA said.
A World Health Organization (WHO) official told AFP that “the decision to declare an epidemic is the sovereignty of the Burundian state.
The country declared a malaria epidemic in March 2017, when the country had recorded 1.8 million cases and 700 deaths, but was resisting doing the same now.
A senior government official, who declined to be named, said the government did not want to admit weakness with elections set for 2020.
“We are less than a year away from the presidential election. (President Pierre) Nkurunziza, who is facing many crises, does not want to recognize what could be considered a failure of his health policy,” the official told AFP.