Common Diseases in Burkina Faso

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SEATTLE — Burkina Faso is a West African state that has struggled in combating and treating disease. Currently, there is no radiotherapy machine for treating cancer in the country. The landlocked nation has stopped sending people to other countries for medical treatment because of high government costs, and the country’s vast rural areas and lack of medical equipment result in many of the common diseases in Burkina Faso going untreated.

Noncommunicable diseases — often long-lasting, and caused by genetic or environmental factors — account for roughly 32 percent of deaths in Burkina Faso. The most common deaths from noncommunicable diseases in Burkina Faso are cardiovascular diseases (12 percent of deaths), followed by cancers, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes.

Cases of cardiovascular diseases in Burkina Faso are steadily rising too, as with many West African countries. Currently, the number of deaths from other noncommunicable common diseases in Burkina Faso has more or less plateaued.  However, about 25 more people per 100,000 die from cardiovascular diseases in Burkina Faso each year.

As African countries urbanize (including Burkina Faso), more Africans adopt the lifestyles of those in developed countries. These lifestyles, unfortunately, are often more sedentary, and with worse diets consisting of fast food rather than fresh produce.  While urbanization can bring access to better medical care, in Burkina Faso that just isn’t true yet.

Moreover, that means continued complications in treating noncommunicable diseases. Despite the availability of chemotherapy and surgery, cancers carry a mortality rate of 50 percent in the country and account for 4 percent of all deaths in Burkina Faso.

According to the World Health Organization, Burkina Faso has no “policy, strategy or action plan” when it comes to reducing major risk factors for noncommunicable diseases; these include the harmful use of alcohol, physical inactivity and unhealthy diets.

Maternal, prenatal, communicable and nutritional conditions account for another 58 percent of deaths in Burkina Faso. These include many of the vector-borne diseases that exist in Burkina Faso.

Mosquitoes in Burkina Faso can spread Dengue fever, Chikungunya, malaria and yellow fever, also complicated by urbanization because people have reduced immunity and live near one another, creating the risk of an outbreak. Non-vaccinated persons can contract Hepatitis A or Typhoid from contaminated food and water in Burkina Faso as well.

Furthermore, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (C.D.C.) has issued a warning about the Zika virus in Burkina Faso, advising pregnant women not to travel to the country at all.

However, there is some reason to be optimistic. Burkina Faso’s GDP is rising, as well as its gross enrollment rate in tertiary education. The country’s poverty headcount has dropped by more than 10 percent since 2003, and Burkinabés’ life expectancy rises every year. Although there is no radiotherapy machine for treating cancers in the country now, the Burkina Faso government says it expects one by next year.

Common diseases in Burkina Faso are hard to handle because of a lack of healthcare facilities, equipment and education. However, as the country progresses and develops, these may become easier to treat.

David Mclellan

Photo: Flickr

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