UNICEF DRC responds to deadly floods in Kalehe in South Kivu province

Initial response includes provision of hygiene and health supplies

13 May 2023
Trois personnes soulèvent un grand carton de l'UNICEF.

KINSHASA, 13 MAY 2023 -- A UNICEF team comprised of health, nutrition, sanitation, cholera, child protection and education specialists has started delivering life-saving assistance in Kalehe in South Kivu province in response to the devastating floods and mudslides that have killed more than 400 people, according to the provincial health authorities. Thousands remain missing.

As cholera is endemic in the area, one of UNICEF’s first priorities is to improve living and sanitation conditions to prevent the outbreak of diarrheal diseases. With water networks completely or partially destroyed, people are collecting untreated water from Lake Kivu putting them at a significantly heightened risk of falling ill.

“We are deeply saddened by this appalling loss of life and devastation in an already vulnerable community,” said UNICEF DRC Representative Grant Leaity. “We are moving rapidly to prevent further loss of life and provide assistance to those in need.”

UNICEF has delivered water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) kits as well as infection prevention and control (IPC) kits for use at health facilities; 100kg of chlorine for sanitary facilities and 12 tonnes of additional equipment including buckets, jerry cans and soaps for the installation of chlorination points to ensure the population has access to safe and clean water.  UNICEF has also deployed five cholera teams to strengthen cholera surveillance, respond to all suspected cases of cholera, and step up activities to promote good hygiene.

UNICEF has delivered medical equipment and medicines to the health department. The agency is also working to identify and reunite children who are either unaccompanied by or separated from their families. Working with a partner NGO, UNICEF immediately established 14 child-friendly spaces where children can access mental health support from trained practitioners. UNICEF and partners are also preparing to distribute about 4,000 non-food item kits to affected households.

Following heavy rains on 2 and 4 May, floods swept away more than 2,000 houses, two health facilities and five schools in Bushushu and Nyamukubi. As of 12 May, 411 bodies have been recovered, over 120 injured people have been admitted to local health facilities and close to 1,500 survivors are saying with host families nearby.   Kalehe hosts a number of displaced people, some of whom fled fighting in neighbouring North Kivu province. As many as 20,000 people living in the area may be affected by the floods, half of whom are children.

The DRC is one of the countries where children are most exposed and vulnerable to climatic and environmental shocks, according to a UNICEF study. Across the country, many children do not have access to essential services for their health and their development due to increasingly frequent floods, droughts, and bad weather.

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