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DRC: Efforts to combat cholera in North Kivu camps

Briefing notes

DRC: Efforts to combat cholera in North Kivu camps

9 November 2007

UNHCR and its partners have stepped up this week efforts to curb the spread of cholera which broke out in early October in five camps hosting some 45,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the Mugunga area west of Goma in the troubled North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). According to health workers, by the end of October, there were a total of 439 suspected cases of cholera - 189 of them reported over a five-day period (24-28 October). The latest reports from the camps indicate that the cholera situation appears to be stabilizing as the number of new suspected cases is slightly dropping.

North Kivu province is facing the worst internal displacement since the end of the civil war in 2004. Some 375,000 Congolese have been forced to leave their homes in the North Kivu province since last December due to continued fighting between government forces, renegade troops and rebels. More than 160,000 were newly displaced just over the past two months.

This week, UNHCR and its NGO partner - ASODE - distributed soap to nearly 20,000 IDPs in the two Mugunga camps - Mugunga I and II. We hope that these efforts, improved water supply and sanitation, coupled with an intensive public awareness campaign on hygiene will contain the worrying spread of cholera in the camps. However, there are fears that the poor living conditions at Lac Vert - a nearby makeshift site hosting more than 10,000 IDPs - could contribute to the further spread of cholera. On Wednesday, UNHCR began the transfer of IDPs from Lac Vert to Buhimba, a new camp which we set up more than three weeks ago. We plan to complete this transfer over the next 12 days. The UNHCR-built Buhimba camp, with capacity for more than 10,000 people, has the necessary basic health, water and sanitation facilities.

With sharpening inter-ethnic divides and a continuous build-up of military forces, UNHCR remains deeply concerned about the risks of severe human rights abuses and violence against civilians. We welcome all efforts to find a negotiated solution to the ongoing confrontations and prevent further the suffering of the North Kivu population brought on by prolonged instability and fighting.