More than 3,000 cases of cholera have been reported in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) since March, the United Nations reported today, saying that the disease had claimed the lives of 192 people since it was first reported in the north-eastern city of Kisangani, from where it spread downstream along River Congo.
The World Health Organization (WHO) and partners are helping the Government to organize hygiene promotion campaigns, set up water chlorination points and to ensure that those infected get free treatment, the spokesperson for Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Martin Nesirky, told reporters at UN Headquarters.
The disease has spread to the provinces of Equateur, Bandundu and the capital, Kinshasa.
The UN Office for the Coordination of the Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), meanwhile, reported that although Bandundu remains the worst affected province – with 1,271 cases and 72 deaths as of 4 July – cholera has been spreading quickly in Kinshasa.
Cholera is an acute intestinal infection caused by eating food or drinking water contaminated with the bacterium known as vibrio cholerae. The disease has a short incubation period and produces a toxin that causes continuous watery diarrhoea, a condition that can quickly lead to severe dehydration and death if treatment is not administered promptly. Vomiting also occurs in most patients.
The disease remains a global threat and is one of the key indicators of social development, according to WHO. While cholera no longer poses a threat to countries with high standards of hygiene, it remains a challenge in countries with limited access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation.