Number of severely malnourished doubles in four weeks in Karuzi, Burundi

MSF calls for 'General Food Distribution' by World Food Program for affected populations.
Bujumbura: Friday Feb 2, 2001 - The international medical aid agency Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) today reported that the number of severely malnourished children admitted to their therapeutic feeding centres (footnote 1) in Karuzi has doubled over the past four weeks and is worsening daily. MSF calls on the UN World Food Program (WFP) to improve the food supply pipeline to Burundi to enable a General Food Distribution to affected populations in the north of the country and to ensure a consistent supply of food (CSB and oil) for existing feeding programs. MSF is the only organisation running feeding programs in Karuzi and is targeting children, adolescents and lactating mothers, but is rapidly approaching full capacity (footnote 2). MSF underlined the increasing need for other agencies to provide care to the malnourished adults and to launch a distribution of seeds and tools in the province. 'Therapeutic and supplementary feeding programs target those who are already malnourished and who need medical help. This will not solve the problem'. said MSF Head of Mission Andrew Durrant. 'WFP and associated donors must drastically improve the food pipe-line and ensure that adequate amounts of food reach those most in need. Without a General Food Distribution in the province, the numbers of malnourished will continue to rise' he added. There are around 360,000 people in Karuzi Province, 20% of whom are children under five years old. An MSF nutritional survey conducted in November 2000 in the province, showed that a quarter of these children were affected by malnutrition. Thirteen percent were suffering from severe malnutrition and required therapeutic feeding. Since then, the nutritional situation has worsened day by day. Over the past month, the number of severely malnourished children requiring therapeutic feeding has doubled in MSF programs, up from 460 children at the end of December 2000, to 1,100 at the end of January 2001. Everyday, around 150 severely malnourished children are newly admitted following the international criteria for malnutrition. This is up from 50 per day at the end of December. Compared to this time last year (end of January), the organisation has also witnessed a tenfold increase in the total number of malnutrition cases admitted to supplementary programs. MSF is currently feeding 19,000 children (footnote 3) and lactating mothers in ten supplementary feeding centres and 1,100 children in four therapeutic (intensive) feeding centres. MSF will open two additional therapeutic feeding centres within the next two weeks, giving a total capacity of 2,300 children. A quarter of the children admitted into all feeding programs come from the neighbouring province of Ngozi. A lack of rain reduced last years harvest and the upcoming harvest in May/June will be insufficient to meet the population needs, unless seeds are distributed by mid February. A serious malaria epidemic continues in the north of the country, with 30,000 cases per week being treated in the province of Karuzi (footnote 4). MSF activities in Karuzi province involve more than 1000 national staff and 43 international staff. MSF is also working in the capital Bujumbura and in the provinces of Cancuzo, Bujumbura Rural, Kayanza and Ngozi, and is running surgical, nutritional and medical programs (including mobile teams for malaria).
  • Footnote 1: Supplementary feeding is: one dry ration per week, per child to take home. Therapeutic feeding is daily intensive, medically observed feeding in the centre.
  • Footnote 2: Current MSF total supplementary feeding capacity is 20,000
  • Footnote 3: Children in this context means <5's and adolescents up to 16 years
  • Footnote 4: Data from MSF supported health centres and mobile clinics