Burundi: MSF Emergency Center Flooded, Patients Evacuated

Heavy rains in the province of Bujumbura Rural in Burundi caused the Rusizi River to burst its banks, and flood the Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) Center for Obstetrical Emergencies in Kabezi (called CURGO), where 42 women and 10 newborns were hospitalized. To date, other houses in the proximity of the river have not been severely affected.

“It rained the whole night and the river spilled over again,” said Chantal Dheur, MSF's head of mission. “Hospital wards, the operation theatre, and the delivery room are completely flooded, with about 1.5 meters (about 5 feet) of mud rammed inside and around the building. The hospital is on the brink of collapsing unless urgent measures are taken to prevent the river spilling over a third time.”

During the first flooding on the night of January 6, patients were evacuated and urgent cases were referred to private clinics in Bujumbura. Another major flooding the next night and into the early hours of January 8 destroyed up to 20 meters (about 65 feet) of the center’s walls.

“Today we are moving out all medical and surgical material from the center to a safe place in Bujumbura city,” said Dheur. “Dozens of patients may be deprived of vital emergency care, as all activities of the CURGO center are suspended and other clinics in Bujumbura only have a limited capacity.”

The CURGO center opened in June 2008. Every month it assists about 250 women for complications during pregnancy or delivery who need care not provided in primary health centers. This care is vital as the complications can be fatal, both for the expectant mother and the newborn. The center, which MSF constructed, is planned to be handed over to the Burundi Ministry of Health in the future.

MSF has worked in Burundi since 1993. In addition to its Center for Obstetrical Emergencies in Bujumbura Rural Province, MSF responds to medical emergencies in the country, as in 2009 when a nutritional crisis hit the province of Kirundo.