DRC—The World Health Organization (WHO) has revealed that the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has experienced the world’s most significant cholera outbreak this year, with over 41,000 cholera cases reported and 314 deaths.

Cholera is a severe diarrheal infection caused by consuming contaminated food or water tainted with the Vibrio cholerae  bacteria.

According to the WHO, there are 1.3 to 4 million cases of cholera and 21,000 to 143,000 cholera-related fatalities worldwide each year.

The cholera outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has become a complex public health issue, intensifying since the beginning of 2023.

The WHO reports that cholera infections have resurfaced in the country, mainly concentrated in the conflict-ridden eastern regions.

Furthermore, WHO stated that, following a peak in April 2023, approximately 1,000 cases have been reported weekly due to the shortage of healthcare workers, who are already overwhelmed by responding to various diseases in extremely challenging conditions.

Cholera cases are not new to the Democratic Republic of the Congo; similar outbreaks have been recorded since late October last year, stemming from the displacement caused by the M23 rebel group’s October attempt to seize Bunagana, a crucial town on the Ugandan border.

As a result of the capture of extensive portions of the North Kivu province, hundreds of thousands of people have been compelled to evacuate and seek refuge in comparatively safer areas.

Thousands of people have erected small makeshift shelters along the road leading north out of Goma, representing the significant humanitarian crisis that has gripped the tumultuous east of the DR Congo.

The most vulnerable have congregated by the roadside, squeezed inside tents constructed from twigs and tarps on lava fields formed by Mount Nyiragongo.

According to Anne-Sylvie Linder, the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross in North Kivu, the province’s widespread violence had displaced over 370,000 people by November 28, compared to approximately 90,000 in late October.

She also noted that, given the large number of displaced people, conditions in camps such as Kanyaruchinya are deteriorating. 

This is exacerbated by Kanyaruchinya’s lack of fresh water and the stony lava fields, making it impossible to dig proper latrines.

Furthermore, the majority of the displaced individuals sleep with only a blanket draped over the rocks. Regular downpours during the rainy season in the Democratic Republic of the Congo worsen the situation, leading to cholera due to poor sanitation.

Despite the DRC government’s announcement in October 2023 to eliminate cholera from the country by 2030, cholera remains a global public health concern, serving as an indicator of inequalities and gaps in socioeconomic development.

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