Burundi’s ‘Worst Enemy’: the Country’s Fight Against COVID-19

Emery Manirambona, Henna Reddy, Emmanuel Uwiringiyimana, Theogene Uwizeyimana, Archith Kamath, Sai Arathi Parepalli, Salvador Sun Ruzats, Blaise Ntacyabukura, Sheikh Mohammed Shariful Islam, Attaullah Ahmadi, Don Eliseo Lucero-Prisno III


Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has proved to be a severe global public health threat, causing high infection rates and mortality worldwide. Burundi was not spared the adverse health outcomes of COVID-19. Although Burundi’s initial response to the COVID-19 pandemic was criticized, hope arose in June 2020 when the new government instituted a plan to slow virus transmission that included public health campaigns, international travel restrictions, and mass testing, all of which proved effective. Burundi has faced many challenges in containing the virus, the first of which was the lack of initial preparedness and appropriate response to COVID-19. This was exacerbated by factors including shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE), limited numbers of life-saving ventilators (around 12 ventilators as of April 2020), and the presence of only one COVID-19 testing center with less than ten technicians in July 2020. Moreover, as Burundi is amongst the poorest countries in the world, some citizens were unable to access necessities such as water and soap, required for compliance with government recommendations regarding hygiene. Interestingly, Burundi did not implement a nationwide lockdown, allowing mass gatherings and public services to continue as usual due to a firm belief in God’s protection. As the daily confirmed cases have tripled since December 2020, Burundi must prepare itself for the threat of a new wave. Establishing precautionary measures to contain the virus and strengthening the health surveillance system in Burundi would significantly positively impact the prevention and management of COVID-19.


Burundi, challenges, COVID-19, health policy, strengths

Full Text:



 1.Worldometer. Burundi population; 2021.

 2.Burundi Ministry of Public Health and the fight against AIDS. Communique de presse emanant du ministere de la sante publique etde la lutte contre le sida sur la declaration des cas du COVID--19 au Burundi. MINISANTE data. Bujumbura, Burundi; 2020 [cited 2021Mar 13].

 3.World Health Organization. Burundi situation; 2021 [cited 2021 Apr22].

 4.Burundi Ministry of Public Health and the fight against AIDS.Communique de presse du ministere de la sante publique et de la luttecontre le sida sur les mesures de prevention du COVID-19 : point desituation 18/03/2020. MINISANTE data. Bujumbura, Burundi; 2020 [cited 2021 Mar 16].

 5.Kaneza E. Burundi closes borders again as COVID-19 cases on the rise. APNews. Nairobi; 2021 [cited 2021 Mar 14].

 6.COVID-19: Bulletin D’information Hebdomadaire. MINISANTE and WHO; 2021.

 7.Niyungeko D. Fait du jour/Covid-19: le ministère s’est doté d’un centre des opérations d’urgence de santé Publique. WACU Web TV; 2020[cited 2021 May 24].

 8.United Nations. Coronavirus : le Burundi lance une campagne dedépistage volontaire (OCHA). UN; 2020 [cited 2021 Mar 14].

 9.Bagcchi S. COVID-19 and measles: double trouble for Burundi. Lancet. 2020; 1 (2): e65.

 10.United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund. Burundi humanitarian situation report, January-June 2020. UNICEF Data; 2020[cited 2021 Mar 16].

 11.The New York Times. 10 African countries have no ventilators. That’sonly part of the problem. New York Times; 2020 [cited 2021 May 25].

 12.Reuters. Burundi’s Ex-President Pierre Buyoya dies aged 71.U.S.News; 2020 [cited 2021 Mar 15].

 13.Human Rights Watch. Burundi: fear, repression in Covid-19 response. HRW Region Nairobi; 2020 [cited 2021 Mar 14].

 14.Agences A, Quenum F. Covid-19 au Burundi: le nouveau pouvoirprend le contre-pied du régime Nkurunziza. DW; 2020 [cited 2020 May 30].

 15.Radio Publique Africaine. Le Burundi se contenterait-il des raccourcispour dépister la Covid-19? RPA; 2021 [cited 2021 May 24].

 16.Misago J. Covid-19/Pénurie d’eau: certains quartiers de Gihosha entrele marteau et l’enclume. IWACU. Bujumbura, Burundi; 2021 [cited2021 Mar 16].

 17.Desmon S. COVID-19 prevention when there’s no soap and water. Johnson Hopkins Center for Communication Program; 2020.

 18.La Banque Mondiale. Burundi - Vue d’ensemble; 2021.

 19.Concern Worldwide. Why life is so hard in Burundi; 2017 [cited 2021May 25].

 20.Radio Publique Africaine. Des militaires et policiers abandonnés à leursort pour avoir contracté la Covid-19. RPA; 2021 [cited 2021 Mar16].

 21.Ntumwa J. Covid-19: gestion opaque de la pandémie à Rutana, deshabitants craignent une forte contamination. SOS Media Burundi;2021 [cited 2021 Mar 13].

 22.Kaze F. Covid-19 au Burundi: les autorités entre déni et cacophonie. Jeune Africa; 2021 [cited 2021 May 24].

 23.Kwizera E. Covid-19: Au marché dit ’’Cotebu’’, on s’arrache du gingembre, du citron et les feuilles d’eucalyptus. IWACU; 2021 [cited2021 Mar 14].

 24.World Health Organization. Considerations in adjusting public health and social measures in the context of COVID-19; 2020 [cited 2021May 25].

 25.World Health Organization Africa. Monitoring and evaluation framework for the COVID-19 response in the WHO African Region; 2020 [cited 2021 May 24].

 26.Ballard M, Bancroft E, Nesbit J, Johnson A, Holeman I, Foth J, et al. Prioritising the role of community health workers in the COVID-19 response. BMJ Global Health. 2020; 5 (6): e002550.

 27.France 24. African countries ramp up Covid vaccine rollouts under Covax scheme; 2021 [cited 2021 May 24].

 28.Silverberg LS, Ritchie LMP, Gobat N, Nichol A, Murthy S. Clinician-researcher’s perspectives on clinical research during the COVID19 pandemic. PLoS One; 2020.

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.21109/kesmas.v0i0.5029


  • There are currently no refbacks.