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DR Congo to vaccinate more than one million people against cholera


FILE PHOTO: A worker at an emergency cholera treatment centre gets her shoes disinfected in Kinshasa. / AFP PHOTO / JOHN WESSELS 

The Democratic Republic of Congo on Wednesday kicked off a five-day campaign to vaccinate more than one million people against cholera in the eastern province of South Kivu.

The campaign is being spearheaded by the Congolese Ministry of Health with support from the World Health Organisation; Gavi, the vaccine alliance; and UNICEF.

The campaign kicked off in the city of Uvira and will be conducted in nearly 60 areas across five major health zones. The other four areas are Fizi, Idjwi, Minova and Nundu.

“This oral cholera vaccination campaign in South Kivu reminds us that the DRC is not only facing Ebola in Equateur province and COVID-19 in 15 of its 26 provinces, but also cholera and measles, epidemics that kill in silence and for which we must mobilize more,” Dr. Amedee Prosper Djiguimde, the official in charge of the DR Congo’s W.H.O. office, said.

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In May, UNICEF warned of an increased risk of a cholera outbreak as the region was hit by heavy rains and flooding in April resulting in damage to a water treatment plant.

South Kivu has one of the highest mortality rates in the DR Congo and suffers from inadequate access to health services. The province is plagued by regular outbreaks of deadly diseases such as malaria, cholera and measles.

According to aid agencies, the dry season, poor sanitation and inadequate water supplies can push the population to access water from unhealthy sources, which worsen the spread of cholera.

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Cholera is a highly contagious disease transmitted through contaminated water or food. It causes severe diarrhoea and dehydration that must be treated immediately to prevent death, which can occur in just a few hours, and to prevent the disease from spreading on a large scale in a high-risk environment.

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