The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is facing its worst cholera epidemic for 6 years, warns the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), due to a spike in conflict and displacement in the eastern part of the country.
The UN agency reports that 31,342 cases of suspected or confirmed cholera and 230 deaths were notified throughout the country during the first 7 months of this year, including many children.
North Kivu is the most affected province. On its own, more than 21,400 confirmed or suspected cases, including more than 8,000 children under the age of 5, have been recorded since the start of the year, while over the whole of 2022, only 5,120 cases there had been identified, including 1,200 in children under 5 years of age.
UNICEF’s senior coordinator for emergencies in the DRC, Shameza Abdulla, calls for an urgent reaction in order to avoid the worst.
” If urgent measures are not taken in the coming months, the epidemic risks spreading to parts of the country that have been spared for many years ,” she said.
“ It is also likely to continue to spread in displacement sites where systems are already overwhelmed and where the population, especially children, is very vulnerable to disease and, potentially, death. Displaced families have already suffered so much .”
In a similar situation in 2017, cholera expanded to the entire country, including the capital city, Kinshasa, leading to almost 55,000 cases and more than 1,100 deaths.