Southern and Eastern Africa COVID-19 Digest

Situation Report
Burundi — Trends

Over 100 people in the country contracted the virus

  • First case: 31 March 2020

  • Total cases: 170 (as of 28 June 2020)

  • Total deaths: 1

  • Schools: Open (except for the French and Belgian schools)

  • Flights/Borders: All international passenger flights and visa issuance suspended on 22 March, except for cargo, humanitarian aid, diplomatic community and ambulance flights. WFP Humanitarian Air Service is authorized and organizing inbound and outbound passengers flights for humanitarians and related services. The land borders, temporarily closed with the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda, have been reopened on 15 April to allow the movement of goods and commodities. The border with Tanzania has remained open for the movement of goods and for the return of Burundians in their country.

  • Containment measures: Since 5 March, self-financed 14-day quarantine is mandatory for travellers and anyone who has had contact with symptomatic people. Burundian refugees returning from Tanzania within the voluntary repatriation programme are exempt from this quarantine measure, except for those displaying COVID-19 symptoms.

Situation:

In Burundi, 170 people had contracted COVID-19 , including one person who died from disease, as of 28 June. The testing capacity is, however, limited, with 1,335 tests conducted so far, around 108 tests per 1 million inhabitants , out of a population of nearly 12 million. Meanwhile, there are unofficial reports of increasing patient admissions to hospitals with COVID-19--like symptoms, as well as multiple deaths due to respiratory failure.

The country has had over 2,500 people in mandatory quarantine, including 650 children (some unaccompanied), pregnant women and elderly citizens. There are reports that many people confined in hotels, motels, or other Government designated buildings do not have the financial capacity to complete their 14-day quarantine. In addition, the lack of triage and isolation facilities, the inadequate logistical and operational capacity of rapid response teams and other frontline health workers, as well as the shortage of safe water, sanitation and hygiene equipment throughout the country constrains the response effort. UNHCR has requested that the Government suspend voluntary repatriation until effective COVID-19 protective measures are in place, such as providing accommodation to enable a two-week quarantine for Burundian repatriates.

Heavy rains and flooding between April and May caused destruction of key infrastructure and affected around 50,000 people across the country, most of whom are displaced, increasing the risk of COVID-19 transmissions in temporary camps. In Bujumbura Rural Province alone, a hospital, three health facilities and a COVID-19 isolation centre were flooded, disrupting key health services. Meanwhile, the Government and partners have been working to increase training of health personnel in the detection, diagnosis, and surveillance of respiratory diseases, as well as hygiene awareness among the population. This is especially important to protect the most vulnerable groups in the country, including internally displaced people, returnees, host communities and over 1.7 million people facing hunger.

Separately, on 14 May the UN Commission of Inquiry on Burundi called on the Government to act with transparency and comply with the international standards of human rights and humanitarian assistance during the response to the COVID-19 outbreak. The statement comes after the Foreign Ministry declared on 13 May the country's WHO representative in Burundi and three health experts working in the UN emergencies team "persona non grata" and as such, ordered the four members to leave the territory of Burundi over an alleged disagreement on the management of the pandemic.

Response:

  • In parallel to the Strategic Response Plan developed by the WHO and partners, a contingency plan has been prepared by the Government, requesting US$58.2 million. To date, over $15 million has been pledged or made available for the COVID-19 response efforts.Some partners are also in the process of reprogramming and reallocating the Ebola funding towards the COVID-19 response.

  • The National Steering Committee for Public Health Emergency Management, chaired by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Public Health and the Fight Against AIDS, has been reactivated, together with pillar-based technical working groups.

  • Health authorities are screening travellers and have supplied laboratories with COVID-19 testing kits, however both require enhancements.

  • A campaign has been launched to tell people about the COVID-19 preventive measures and a hotline is answering questions from the public. The service is however overwhelmed, and a call centre with greater capacity is needed.

To learn more about the COVID-19 situation in Burundi and its humanitarian impact, check out the OCHA Burundi Situation Report, available in English and French.

Official sources:

Ministry of Health Official Twitter and Minister of Health Twitter

Other links

OCHA Burundi – COVID-19 Information page – Humanitarian Response

COVID-19 Educational Disruption and Response, by UNESCO

COVID-19 World Travel Restrictions, by the Emergency Division of the World Food Programme (WFP)

Global COVID-19 Airport Status, by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)

Policy Response to COVID-19, by IMF

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