DRC – Congolese health officials, in collaboration with international health partners, have launched a cholera vaccine program.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), this initiative aims to reach more than 5 million people in four regions.

Cholera is an acute diarrhoeal disease that can kill within hours if left untreated. It is a poverty-related disease affecting people who lack access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation.

Factors such as conflict, uncontrolled urbanization, and climate change all raise the risk of cholera.

According to researchers, there are 1.3 to 4.0 million cases of cholera each year, with 21,000 to 143,000 deaths globally.

Despite the majority of infected people having no or mild symptoms, the disease can be fatal if not promptly treated with oral rehydration solution (ORS).

Cholera, being a simple disease, can be successfully treated in most cases by administering ORS as soon as possible.

During the five-day initiative, the oral vaccine campaign targets people aged 1 and up in 15 health zones.

This program, supported on the ground by over 8,000 workers, outreach supervisors, and social mobilizers, is scheduled to take place in the provinces of North Kivu, South Kivu, Tanganyika, and Haut-Katanga.

According to Boureima Hama Sambo, WHO’s representative in the Congo, the mass vaccination campaign in the identified provinces will protect a considerable number of people in vulnerable situations.

Sambo acknowledged the support of health partners such as Gavi and the International Coordination Group (ICG), which facilitated the delivery of more than 5 million vaccine doses.

He also noted that it is crucial to prevent the further spread of the disease to other fragile and exposed areas.

As of December 3, WHO data indicates that the Congo has recorded over 48,280 suspected cases of cholera, including 421 deaths, making it one of the worst outbreaks in the country since 2017.

North Kivu province has reported 62% of the country’s cholera cases, exacerbated by massive population displacement and inadequate coverage of drinking water and hygienic latrines.

To address the situation, Sambo emphasized the effectiveness of oral cholera vaccines in preventing and reducing the spread of this infectious disease, considering them a crucial component of the response to save many lives.

WHO and its partners have deployed responders to cholera-affected areas, supporting authorities in strengthening water, sanitation, and hygiene surveillance and interventions.

Additionally, they have delivered life-saving medical supplies for patient treatment.

Oral cholera vaccines should be used in conjunction with improvements in water and sanitation to control cholera outbreaks and for prevention in areas known to be high-risk for cholera.

Cholera, characterised by extreme watery diarrhoea leading to life-threatening dehydration, is caused by the ingestion of contaminated food or water.

The population’s access to potable drinking water and adherence to hygiene measures are essential in protecting against the high risk of contracting cholera.

Globally, nearly 30 countries have reported cholera cases since the beginning of the year, with the WHO African Region being the most impacted, where 16 countries have reported cases.

For all the latest healthcare industry news from Africa and the World, subscribe to our NEWSLETTER, and YouTube Channel, follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn, and like us on Facebook.