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Cholera epidemic within displaced near Bujumbura

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The measures taken to make drinkable water available to the population will allow MSF to limit the problem and keep the epidemic under control.

Since June 17, MSF medical teams in Burundi have been working against a cholera outbreak among the population. As of July 22, MSF has treated a total of 359 confirmed cases; so far five have died.

The majority of the patients are internally displaced persons (IDPs) from the region of rural Bujumbura - especially from the district of Gihosha - and they are being treated in the isolation ward of the MSF Cholera Treatment Centre (CTC) in Kamenge (another rural district of Bujumbura), where the capacity has been increased to 100 beds.

Cholera treatment usually takes a few days for each patient. "Our medical teams are treating the patients in Bujumbura," said Stéphane Goetghebeur, Country Coordinator in Burundi.

"At the same time we are monitoring the situation in other locations, such as Bubanza or Cibitoke, where suspect cases are also reported, and we are ready to extend our assistance should we estimate it necessary"

So far MSF action has also included installing two water-distribution bladders in the most affected areas, providing a total of 30,000 litres of drinkable water, and has distributed jerrycans and soap to the population.

Since June 25, MSF staff have also launched a hygiene procedure for all new cases, involving the screening of possible cases in the close environment of the patient as well as the disinfection of their home - with particular focus on the shower, toilet and kitchen utensils - using a chlorinated solution.

"Prevention measures haven't stopped the epidemics yet. This cholera outbreak is directly related to the water distribution. Apart from those cases already identified in June, the increase in the number of patients followed the cut of the water supply of July 9 in Bujumbura", said Goetghebeur. "The measures taken since to make drinkable water available to the population will allow MSF to limit the problem and keep the epidemics under control".

Most people arriving in our treatment centre suffer from severe or moderate dehydration, diarrhoea and vomiting and are rehydrated. When indicated, they are treated with antibiotics. MSF is currently coordinating the cholera medical intervention, updating the OCHA representative on a daily basis and liaising with the Ministry of Health, the water authorities, ECHO and the other aid agencies present in the country.

Over the past days, 18 suspected cases of meningitis have also been registered in Ngozi Province, some 126 kilometres north-east of Bujumbura. If these suspected cases are confirmed, MSF will propose the assistance of its medical team in the field, in order to deal with both epidemics.

Cholera is spreading in Burundi at a time of increasing political tension in the country, with fighting between rebels and the army taking place regularly in numerous locations. Because of the conflict that is taking place in large parts of rural Burundi, most of the population has been repeatedly a victim of forced displacement.