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Cholera Spreading Rapidly in Southern DRC
October 18, 2002
Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has sent additional staff and medical materials to southern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Over the past weeks teams have seen cholera spreading rapidly over the region, with Katanga and Kasai provinces most heavily affected. To curb the epidemic MSF is sending more staff (nurse and expert in water and sanitation) and supplies (re-hydration material, sanitary and medical equipment) to East Kasai.
A total of 25,000 cholera cases have been detected in Katanga, since the first outbreak in September 2001. In the first half of October 2002, 204 cases were counted just in the cholera treatment centers (CTC) that are managed or monitored by MSF. But now the disease seems to be spreading into neighbouring provinces as well.
"In Mbuji Mayi, East Kasai Province, the situation is worse than expected," said Luc Nicolas, operational coordinator for MSF. "Our teams discovered cholera cases in at least five different locations, even 75 kilometers from Mbuji Mayi. Until now a total of 172 cases have been admitted to the five CTCs in Bakamba, Chilunde, Kamaleka, Dipumba and Kabengele."
The cholera outbreaks do not only result from lack of sufficient access to health care and food. Hygiene is also very problematic. The majority of villages in East Kasai with cholera cases are involved in diamond mining. The wastewater of this industry goes directly into the river Lubilanji, which is the main source of drinking water for the population. The ritual of placing the bodies of the deceased in the river is another reason the epidemic is spreading along the river to North.
"Our teams will organize an awareness campaign to educate the local population in the region on the basic principles of hygiene promotion, how they can treat the water for drinking purposes, how cholera is transmitted, and how they can protect themselves against infection." Luc Nicolas continued. "This way we hope to curb the spread of the disease. Improving access to safe drinking water by providing protected wells is another possibility."