Malaria epidemic in the spotlight after Burundian YouTube child star’s death

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Health experts said on Tuesday that the death of a six-year-old YouTube star from a malaria epidemic in Burundi has spotlighted the growing challenge of combating malaria in a warmer world.

Darcy Irakoze – known as Kacaman – who was popular for his comedy performances on YouTube and in local theaters, died on Thursday after contracting the mosquito-borne disease in his home city of Gitega, east of the commercial capital Bujumbura.

Neighbors in the tiny central African nation told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that the primary school student had been suffering from fever for a few days and his mother had taken him to a local clinic, but he had died the following day.

“The death of Kacaman is very tragic,” said Marshal Mukuvare of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

“We are losing many children to malaria – not just in Burundi, but across sub-Saharan Africa,” he said, adding that Burundi was struggling to stop mosquitoes breeding around homes and to provide bednets to protect people while sleeping.

The young comic’s death has prompted a wave of tributes and sparked debate about malaria in Burundi, where the United Nations says it has reached “epidemic” proportions with almost 6 million cases and 1,800 deaths reported this year.

The Burundian government says the figures are lower – with 4.3 million recorded cases and 1,400 deaths this year.

Malaria, spread when female mosquitoes bite humans, kills almost half a million people each year, with 90% of deaths in Africa, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

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