Hundreds of Burundian doctors on strike for two months over a pay dispute have also stopped providing emergency services in a move that their union warned on Monday could kill as many as 360 people a day.
The tiny central African nation of some 8 million people has just 200 doctors, all of whom earn less than $100 a month. The physicians have asked that salaries be increased to $1,000.
"My great concern is that there are people who are in a critical state who can lose their lives," said Novat Twungubumwe, director of one of the largest public hospitals in Bujumbura. "The few surgeons we have here decided to stay home."
The government said it had offered to boost doctors’ wages by 150 percent -- but said the union had rejected that.
"This is sabotage against the government’s decision to provide free healthcare to mothers who deliver and children under five," government spokesman Philippe Nzobonariba said. "We want to tell doctors they will be responsible for any death."
Many public sector workers in Burundi are unhappy with their pay. The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank have said the country needs to boost revenues before raising wages.