Posts Tagged Burundi

The Global Health Burden of Neglected Tropical Diseases

October 18th, 2011

The ONE Campaign Germany. Find the English version below:

By: Dr. Neeraj Mistry, Managing Director of the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases

river blindness, a disabling and blinding disease which is transmitted through the bite of a black fly. The flies come from the streams and rivers that keep the land fertile, making the water both a blessing and a curse. However, in 2009, Burundi’s ministry of health found this remote community and with the help of global health partners, delivered enough ivermectin to treat everyone in the area. Leonard Medina, the 37-year-old chief of the community, said that people are now returning to work, children are going back to school, and communities broken by genocide, civil war and disease are finally getting the opportunity to rebuild. Without the heavy burden of disease, the land and the people are getting their chance to flourish.

River blindness is in a group of diseases called the neglected tropical diseases or NTDs. Over 1 billion people around the world are affected by NTDs, most of whom live on less than $1.25 per day (US dollars). One in every six people globally has at least one of the seven most common NTDs. That means that every day, half a billion children are forced to go to school feeling tired and malnourished because of a common parasite infection that leads to blood loss and anemia. Millions of people are slowly losing their eyesight because of an infection that turns their eyelashes inwards, scratching their corneas each time they blink. Millions more are left disabled and disfigured by the swollen limbs and genitalia caused by another all too common parasite. These diseases stigmatize, disable and inhibit individuals from being able to care for themselves or their families—all of which promote poverty. Read more: The Global Health Burden of Neglected Tropical Diseases

Burundi Beats Back NTDs

September 26th, 2011

By: Alan Fenwick, Director of the Professor of Tropical Parasitology, Imperial College London

Burundi is a small, heavily populated and desperately poor country in central Africa. Just a few years ago, its people were in the throws of a 12-year civil war, and also plagued by several debilitating neglected tropical diseases, which are a group of infections that disable, debilitate and stigmatize those affected.

In 2007, the philanthropic organization CBM work in partnership to provide technical guidance for Burundi’s National NTD Control Program and National Program for Onchocerciasis Control programs.

Over a period of four years, interventions to protect people against schistosomiasis and intestinal worms were delivered annually through schools and communities. With the help of local people and teachers, over 31 million safe and effective treatments were delivered to school children throughout Burundi.

The table above displays number of treatments distributed in Burundi over the course of four years.

As a result, river blindness was eliminated and the quality of life for all children in Burundi has improved:

  • Schistosomiasis prevalence was reduced from 12.7 percent to 1.7 percent
  • Anemia prevalence fell from 25 percent to below 10 percent
  • Worm prevalence and intensities were significantly reduced

The school wide deworming will continue for several more years to ensure children are adequately nourished to complete their primary education, allowing for a break in the cycle of poverty. Such interventions are highly cost effective as well. The cost of delivering over 31 million treatments was less than $10 million – an extremely cost effective way to improve the health of children and to get them back in school!

Be a part of the NTD movement today and visit the Global Networks Get Involved page to combat neglected tropical diseases.

Personal Perspectives Part 4: Inside look at Burundi’s national NTD program

July 13th, 2011

Below is the last installment of our four part series featuring award-winning producer Jessica Stuart’s stories from the field:

Friday, June 24th- Citoboke

Guise and Wangechi work at the distribution center

We spent the morning in Bujumbura visiting the country’s drug distribution site. Although it’s a warehouse full of boxes, it’s an exciting place. We see drugs from the World Bank, from UNICEF, from pharma, lined up along walls waiting to be picked up and taken to communities that need them the most.  We find rows and rows of Albendezole. This drug is less than a dollar and we’ve already seen what it’s done across Burundi. The room is filled with kindness packed in brown boxes. It’s the kind of place we would want to know is there for our children.

Drug distribution center in Bujumbura

Although time is getting tight, on our last day of filming, we decide to go to a site that has evidence of another NTD, schistosomiasis (also known as Bilharzia or Snail Fever). If there is one thing I’ve learned in my travels to Africa, “Not far” means FAR. If you ask anyone how long it takes to get somewhere, the answer is always “not far”. “Not far” could possibly mean 5 minutes, but it usually means an hour or more.

We ask the ministry representative where it is. The answer, of course, is “not far”. We head North of Bujumbura for over an hour and a half to an area called Citoboke.  This is the part of Burundi that separates itself from Eastern Congo by a small river.  The feeling is different here. Drier, hotter, and more intense. The road is…. bumpy to say the least full of potholes.  Not far becomes 30 minutes, an hour, an hour and a half plus a stop at the ministry for protocol.

Boys collecting water in Citoboke, along the Congo Border

Just when I think I can’t hear anything worse about NTDs, Guise tells us about Schisto.  Although it has a low mortality rate, its chronic effects are devastating. It damages internal organs, impairs growth in children, and can cause damage in cognitive development.  I read that Schisto is second in economic impairment to a country only to Malaria.

snail samples from Citoboke

Schisto comes from fresh water snails. Guise and a guide from the Ministry walk along the Eastern Congo border to a riverbed.  Here, the doctor and Guise begin searching for snails. After a few minutes, they begin to find many and collect them for testing. At the same time, several families are at the same location bathing themselves and their children. It appears to be a bathing place for members of the community.

Crew films children bathing in Citoboke

Again, I don’t know what to say or think. The water is a blessing and necessary to life, yet it’s the water that is keeping the population sick.  It’s hard to watch kids playing and bathing, knowing they are putting their life at risk.  We film and gather crowds, curious what we are doing on the side of a road.  It’s hard to explain we are hoping to save lives when they don’t even know their lives are at risk to begin with.

The end.

We returned to our hotel, which felt like the Ritz Carlton after a week of bucket showers.

We sat outside of our hotel, watching hippos graze from Lake Taganika and the lights of Tanzania shimmering on the other side of the water. In the distance Burundian drummers were performing a celebration and the sound wafted our direction. Keith, Kenny, and I toast and think about the next time we will be lucky enough to travel dirt roads, take cold showers, film for 15 hours a day, get covered in dust,  and travel to far reaches to tell stories about people who need us the most. We wouldn’t have it any other way.

I think our translator Gerard summed up our trip the best as he got out of the car to say goodbye. He looked at me and said in his very deliberate English “When I started this journey I was just a translator of English. But after this trip, if one more child gets an albendizole pill, or one more person doesn’t have to suffer because of the work this group is doing, I will always know that I, myself, had a very small part in making my country a better place, and that brings me more joy than I have ever known”. Well said Gerard. Well said.

Jessica Stuart is an award winning producer and consultant. Her video work and live productions have been seen around the globe- on television, the web, and in theaters. She has worked for NBC Network News, The Today Show, The Oprah Winfrey Show, ABC Network News, and The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.  In September 2008, Jessica created Long Story Short Media, an independent creative consulting and producing firm, specializing in short form, multi-use content. She lives in Washington, DC with her husband, David, her son Alexander, and their rescue dog, Riley Martin.

Personal Perspectives Part 2: Inside look at Burundi’s national NTD program

July 8th, 2011

Part two of our four part series featuring award-winning producer Jessica Stuarts stories from the field:

Monday, June 20- Mwaro Province

Keith Walker films community members in Mwaro Province

On our first full day of travel in Burundi, we drive 2 hours into the mountains to the Mwaro Province.  Today is a very exciting day for the Global Network and partners; the culmination of over 4 years of work.  The Health Minister,Madame Minister Sabine is in Mwaro Province to Launch National Mother and Child Week. This initiative is an integrated approach at a National Level for an MDA- a mass drug administration. Partners include the Burundian Government, The Global Network, Geneva Global, CBM, WHO, and Schistomiasis Control Initiative (SCI). Here, every pregnant woman and child between 1-5 years old can receive free Albendezole to treat whipworm and roundworm, along with Tetanus vaccinations and Vitamin A distribution provided by UNICEF and partners.

Health Minister Sabine distributes Albendizole to a mother and baby at the Futa Clinic in Mwaro Province

This program is one of the few they are running at a National level after the Genocide and the Civil War.

Because it has devastated the country, infrastructure is practically non-existent. There is evidence of rebuilding, but it will take quite some time. Being among the top poorest countries in the world, Burundi can’t do it alone.

The Minister delivered medicines herself. In a speech, she told the community gathered that no one should suffer from any form of NTDs when the medicine and vaccines are free to the people.   She said there are 9 provinces where worms are ravaging the population. Mwaro is one of them.

If anything is happening in a rural village, the ENTIRE village shows up. It is an inevitable factor.

Health Minister Sabine distributes a tetanus shot at Futa Clinic

Hundreds, maybe even thousands come. Events of any kind are taken very seriously.  And today, Madame Minister’s visit to the “Stadium” (a large field used to play soccer), the village came to listen. Dances were performed and speeches were given. Our interpreter, Gerard, explained to me that each song and dance represented an illness or health initiative. They sang about using malaria nets, how to wash your hands for hygiene, how women should breast feed for the first 6 months. Now, I highly doubt NeYo or Akon or JayZ would create a song about public health, but the moment reminded me of those cartoons we used to watch as children that taught us about Bills on Capitol Hill or how not to over salt your meat. Or at the end of GI Joe when the lesson would come and GI Joe would say “now you know, and knowing is half the battle.

Same concept, different execution.  We aren’t so different.

Minister Sabine at a protocol meeting over an Amstel

We ended our day with Madame Minister and formal government protocol. Protocol was to sit and enjoy a beer and talk about the news, families, etc. One thing I must say about Burundi- the beers are NOT 12 ounces. They are liters.  So, about 50 of us sat around, each sipping our liter of beer.  I don’t even like beer that much, but protocol is protocol!

Our hotel in Mwaro had hot water and electricity. No Internet.  Our dinner took 2 hours to cook and we could only eat what they had left from the dayrice, 2 chicken legs, a chicken wing and some fish for 7 of us. This is the first night, however, we learned about brochette. Brochette in Burundi is a meat kabob. There are brochette shacks all over Burundi.  Brochette and beer is happy hour. Brochette and beer is happy hour with no choice of anything else but brochette and beer, or goat or cow brochette.

At the hotel, Kenny’s room had disco lights in the bathroom. I’m not sure why only his room had flashing green, blue, and red lights –we figured he had the honeymoon suite.

Tuesday, June 21st- Rutuna Province

Read more: Personal Perspectives Part 2: Inside look at Burundi’s national NTD program