Burundi: when will citizens see real protection from malaria?

Preliminary findings from Burundi’s 2015-16 DHS have been made available. The country has a long way to go to meet targets for basic control of malaria.

LLIN availability by household is an overall disappointing 32%. Ironically there is greater coverage of households in in urban areas (50%) than rural (30%). There is also great variation among the provinces with 52% coverage in Bujumbura metropolitan but only 19% in Canzuko. The overall average is less than one treated net per household.

A major concern is equity. The chart above shows a steep gradation from 19% coverage among the lowest fifth of the wealth quintile, up to 48% in the highest. Even in households that have at least one net, only 17% of of people slept under a net the night before the survey.

In terms of use by those traditionally defined as vulnerable, the DHS shows only 40% of children below 5 years of age overall slept under a treated net the night prior to the survey. Even in households that own at least one net, 78% of these children slept under one.

A similar pattern is seen for treated net use by pregnant women. Overall 44% slept under a treated net, and 84% did so in households that owned at least one treated net. The internal household dynamics of net use where one is available does appear to favor these two groups.

Overall coverage of Intermittent Preventive Treatment for pregnant women is very low. Less than 30% of pregnant women received even the first dose of SP. This decreased to 21% for two doses and 13% for three. In contrast to net coverage, more rural women (31%) received the first dose of IPTp than urban ones (19%).

Nearly 40% of children below five years of age were found to have had a fever in the two weeks preceding the survey. Among those care was sought for only two-thirds. Eleven percent of those with fever received an artemisinin-based combination therapy drug. The report did not mention whether these children had received any testing prior to treatment, so appropriateness of treatment cannot be judged. Prevalence testing of the children in the sample found 38% with parasitemia. Therefore one might assume that more children should have received ACTs.

Burundi still faces major political and social challenges. Even so Burundi is the recipient of malaria support from the Global Fund. For example 18 million LLINs were distributed in 2015 and 19 million in 2016.

Much work is needed to bring Burundi even close to universal coverage of malaria interventions. In today’s climate of questionable donor commitment, it is hoped that regional partners may play a role since malaria knows no boundaries.

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