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UNICEF and partners intensify fight against cholera in DRC

BUNIA, Ituri District, Democratic Republic of the Congo, 1 April 2005 – UNICEF is intensifying its emergency activities in collaboration with partners to fight a deadly cholera outbreak at the Kafe internally displaced persons (IDP) site in Ituri District, Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as at the Tche and Tchomia IDP sites. 

According to MSF-CH, from 27-31 March, the number of cholera cases at the Kafe IDP site increased from 2 to 110, including 3 cholera-related deaths. MSF-CH also reports 5 suspected cases of cholera at the Tche IDP site and 2 suspected cholera cases at the Tchomia IDP site. In addition to emergency cholera prevention and response supplies already pre-positioned and in use at the IDP sites, UNICEF is flying a medical doctor and a water and sanitation expert to reinforce and assist partners on the ground as part of its emergency response.

Some of the emergency cholera outbreak materials required to contain outbreaks and treat cholera victims which are already in use by partners like MSF-CH and Oxfam at the IDP sites include: ringer lactate, oral re-hydration salts, chlorine to purify water supplies, plastic sheeting, jerry cans, water bladders, tents, hygiene education materials and high-protein biscuits used to rehabilitate malnourished children recovering from diarrhea bouts. In addition, 6,000 hygiene kits for children and adults that include soap, towels, etc., are being flown in from Goma.

The 3 IDP sites of Kafe, Tche and Tchomia are overcrowded with civilians fleeing insecurity in the region and have a combined population of over 50,000; the majority are children and women. Humanitarian access to the Kafe IDP site is limited as the site is unreachable by road; access is only by aircraft or by boat.  Humanitarian access to all IDP sites is further complicated by ongoing insecurity due to fighting in Ituri District.    

“Our priorities are to support the treatment of victims, contain the outbreak and educate the population on preventive measures”, said Massimo Nicoletti-Altimari, Head of UNICEF Office for Ituri District. “In a region that is already cholera-endemic, the influx and high concentration of internally displaced people further heightened the existing threat of cholera. MSF-CH and Oxfam are already working with UNICEF’s pre-positioned emergency supplies and our concern is the threat of cholera to children.”

Young children are especially vulnerable to cholera and, due to forced displacement, children at the IDP sites may also be weakened by malnutrition, thereby making them even more vulnerable.

UNICEF also continues to provide support to emergency Cholera Treatment Centers (CTC), in the IDP sites at Kafe, Tche and Tchomia. The CTCs are managed by MSF-CH which provides the bulk of the medical response.  In addition to its support for the treatment and containment of cholera, UNICEF is also intensifying preventive actions, by supporting Oxfam water chlorination points at the IDP sites as well as hygiene education & awareness campaigns to raise understanding amongst local populations on preventive measures they can take against cholera.

Cholera is an acute bacterial infection of the intestinal tract. It causes severe attacks of diarrhea that, without treatment, can quickly lead to acute dehydration and death, particularly amongst children and especially in emergency situations. Cholera can be prevented by access to safe drinking water, sanitation and good hygiene behavior, including food hygiene. Preventive activities are key to limiting the impact of the current outbreak.

For more information, please contact:

Massimo Nicoletti-Altari, UNICEF Bunia at tel: 243-081-830-5902 or email: mnicoletti@unicef.org

Dr Bruno Moonen, UNICEF Bunia at tel:   243-081-700-7106 or email: bmoonen@unicef.org

Kent Page, UNICEF Bunia at tel:    221-545-8580 or by email:   kpage@unicef.org

Gordon Weiss, UNICEF New York at tel:   1-212-326-7416 or by email: gweiss@unicef.org




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