DRC: Accelerating response to cholera crisis

Water and poor hygiene have been at the source of the spread of the disease in DRC. Credit: WHO/Eugene Kabambie
Aid agencies are accelerating their response to multiple cholera outbreaks in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

National authorities, the UN and aid agencies are accelerating their response to multiple cholera outbreaks in the Democratic Republic of Congo, part of a region-wide effort to curb an epidemic across western and central Africa.

In the western DRC, more than 7,000 people have fallen ill and 390 people have died, since the authorities sounded the alarm three months ago.

The western epidemic has hit communities in Bandundu, Equateur, Province Orientale and Kinshasa, along the Congo River –the DRC’s most important waterway, an important source of drinking water and an essential trade route.

In July, the UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund allocated USD 4 million to the World Health Organisation and UNICEF – who are working with NGO partners to bolster the response.

WHO is training health specialists and running awareness campaigns, while UNICEF is helping to pre-position medical supplies to prevent future outbreaks.

The disease is particularly hard to tackle in the DRC, due to widespread water, hygiene and sanitation problems. Many communities do not have access to clean drinking water or latrines; and people are often reluctant to report new cases, both for social and financial reasons.

One patient visited by OCHA earlier this year, for example, explained that she had hesitated before seeking treatment, because she did not know that treatment was free.

Fidèle Sarassoro, the Humanitarian Coordinator for DRC, said it was essential to bolster the country’s health infrastructure to tackle the underlying causes of the epidemic.