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Bujumbura – "I'm diabetic and life here is very hard, very complicated," complains Jean Ndimurirwo, 68, who has lived in the Maramvya camp for displaced people, near Bujumbura in Burundi, since being driven from her home by floodwaters three years ago. 

A diabetic for 23 years, Ndimurirwo suffered several complications that required specialist intervention last year. "I used to leave the camp to go to a suburb of Bujumbura to see a diabetologist. But it's often hard because I don't always have the means to travel, and pay for the consultation and the necessary medical tests."

In camps like the Maramvya, which is home to more than 5 000 people, access to optimal health care remains a challenge, especially for those with chronic illnesses such as diabetes. In response, Burundi’s Health Ministry launched the Maison des Jeunes Mobile Clinic initiative in February this year, targeting camps for displaced people (IDPs) and rural communities.

Between February and September, almost 6000 people benefited from free medical consultations and treatment thanks to the mobile clinic, which is supported by the World Health Organisation (WHO), with funding from the Government of Japan.

In addition, nearly 2000 patients benefited from laboratory tests and 680 pregnant women from obstetric ultrasounds, while more than 15 000 people received education in areas including hygiene, cholera, gender-based violence, malaria, diabetes and high blood pressure.

Global Peace Chain Burundi is one of the non-government organization’s supported by WHO as part of this campaign to deliver better health care to vulnerable populations. "Free consultations in IDP camps are of vital importance because they meet the medical needs of vulnerable populations who would otherwise have little or no access to adequate health care," says Dr Brondon Niguel Vouofo, the organization’s country director.

From medical consultations to advice on sexual and reproductive health, ultrasounds, laboratory tests and measures to prevent and screen for communicable and non-communicable diseases, an entire  package of health services is offered. 

"WHO Burundi's support enables us to reach a large number of people in IDP camps, which greatly improves the quality of care offered to vulnerable populations," explains Dr Vouofo. "People screened for medical problems, including diabetes, receive appropriate medical care and advice on appropriate diet and lifestyle to enable them to better control the disease. »

In Burundi, hypertension and diabetes are two common and often associated public health problems. According to data from the District Health Information System 2 (DHIS2), Burundi’s more than 2-million strong population includes almost 38 000 people living with diabetes, and more than 98 000 others with high blood pressure. 

"The diabetes screening campaigns organised in the camps make a huge contribution to the fight against diabetes, because the surrounding populations also benefit. In this way, people know their status in time to take the necessary steps," says Dr Jean de Dieu Havyarimana, director of the National Integrated Programme to Combat Chronic Non-Communicable Diseases.

He points out that, in the absence of a national diabetes and hypertension register, these campaigns are extremely useful. "They allow us to populate our diabetes database, which helps our planning. » 

As part of the fight against noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), including diabetes, the WHO team at the Burundi Country Office is providing multifaceted support, including the development of strategies and policies that align with the country’s drive towards achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC). 

"WHO, in its work to achieve Universal Health Coverage, must not leave anyone behind. In IDP camps, people often live in very precarious conditions, with few or no health facilities. This means that if particular attention is not paid to these populations, those with noncommunicable diseases could experience serious difficulties, especially in terms of treatment, but also in relation to the early detection of diseases such as diabetes," says Dr Jérôme Ndaruhutse, WHO Burundi’s NCD programme officer.

The country faces many hurdles in improving NCD management, including suboptimal planning and management of both human and financial resources, as well as access to care, especially for vulnerable groups. Against this backdrop, the screening campaigns and the consequent treatment for people in the camps offers hope to those living with diabetes.

"Since the doctors have been coming to visit us in the camp and giving us free consultations, I feel relieved," says Ndimurirwo. "My health has improved and I'm satisfied. - World Health Organisation

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