Burundians face an everyday reality of death and disease. Although Malaria, Tuberculosis and HIV are issues of concern, Burundi’s largest single medical issue is chronic malnourishment and the host of medical problems that go with it. Almost two thirds of the children under five are chronically malnourished. Chronic malnourishment leads to stunted growth, weak bones, exhaustion, depression and a whole host of other complications, including a weakened immune system. This leaves the affected, many of them children, unable to fight off disease and infection. Treatable medical problems like infections and diarrhea can, and do, kill. Six children out of a hundred will die before they turn five.
These issues are compounded by the lack of healthcare workers and a lack of widespread health education. Burundi has barely three hundred doctors struggling to treat a population of over ten million! Although there are a few doctors being trained in Burundi many of them leave the country to find better opportunities for themselves and their families. Affordable and competent medical care is very difficult to find, even in the cities. The presence of rural clinics can help to relieve this pressure, but many people still must walk for a day to reach the nearest hospital. Expecting mothers particularly can have trouble getting to a hospital quickly enough. In addition inadequate maternal care leads to a higher infant and mother mortality rate and small complications in childbirth can quickly become serious. With medical care so inaccessible everyday injuries and common complications can be very serious; something like a broken leg can be the cause of a life-long debilitation or even death.
These problems stack the deck against urban and rural Burundians, but there is hope. As the number of medical professionals grow so does medical infrastructure. More doctors means more hospitals and clinics and increased medical care can help with many of the problems that Burundians face.