Worst cholera outbreak in six years hits DR Congo

UNICEF in the Congo said Friday that there have been at least 31,342 suspected or confirmed cholera cases in the country with 230 deaths in the first seven months of 2023 — many of them children.

It said the worst affected province, North Kivu, has seen more than 21,400 confirmed or suspected cases, including more than 8,000 children younger than 5.

“The size of the cholera outbreak and the devastation it threatens should ring alarm bells,” said Shameza Abdulla, UNICEF DRC Senior Emergency Coordinator. “If urgent action is not taken within the next months, there is a significant risk that the disease will spread to parts of the country that have not been affected for many years.”

He said there is also the danger it will continue to spread in displacement sites where systems are already overwhelmed and the population, especially children, is highly vulnerable to illness and potentially death.

In 2017, cholera spread across Congo, including the capital, Kinshasa, leading to almost 55,000 cases and more than 1,100 deaths.

UNICEF said it is asking for $ 62.5 million to scale up prevention and response activities for cholera and a WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) crisis in the next five months, which seeks to reach 1.8 million people, including 1 million children, with safe water, hygiene kits, latrines, medical supplies and child-friendly cholera care. Currently, the appeal is just 9% funded.

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