The entertainment industry in Burundi is in shock after a six-year-old YouTube star died of malaria Wednesday.
Darcy Irakoze, known as Kacaman, was a primary school pupil well-known for his comic stand-up routines on YouTube and in local theatres.
His manager told the BBC that the young star contracted malaria on Wednesday and died one day later.
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Darcy’s last performance was with Kigingi, a popular Burundian comedian last Friday. He was also scheduled to perform another comedy event organized by Kigingi before his unfortunate death.
Darcy’s death has reignited the debate on the high number of malaria cases in Burundi. The mosquito-borne disease has killed more than 1,800 people in Burundi this year, the United Nations humanitarian agency recently said, a death toll rivalling an Ebola outbreak in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo.
In its latest situation report, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said 5.7 million cases of malaria had been recorded in Burundi this year, a tiny country of 11 million people.
Of those cases, a total of 1,801 died from the disease in Burundi between January 1 and July 21, OCHA said, adding that the outbreak crossed “epidemic proportions” in May.
The country’s health ministry, however, disputed the report, saying that the figures were lower – 4.3 million recorded cases, with 1,400 deaths this year.
Burundi declared a malaria epidemic in March 2017, when it had recorded 1.8 million cases and 700 deaths, but it is not willing to do same now.
A senior government official, who refused to be named, told the AFP this month that the government did not want to “admit weakness with elections set for 2020.”
“We are less than a year away from the presidential election. [President Pierre] Nkurunziza, who is facing many crises, does not want to recognise what could be considered a failure of his health policy,” the official said.
Nkurunziza, who ran for a third term in a disputed election, announced in 2018 that he would step down in 2020.