A cholera outbreak has been declared in Goma, capital of the North Kivu province in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
North Kivu’s governor, Lt-Gen Constant Ndima says most of the cases have been reported in temporary camps sheltering internally displaced people affected by the on-going war.
“A lot of patients who are suffering from diarrhoea, loss of fluids and some of them are vomiting.” Lt Ndima told journalists on Wednesday evening.
The governor says more than 600 cases and four deaths have been reported. However, non–governmental organisations offering support to the victims say the numbers are higher than official figures.
Those living in the camps have complained about the lack of food, shelter, latrines, and showers – optimal conditions for cholera to spread.
Cholera is usually caught by eating or drinking contaminated food or water and is closely linked to poor sanitation. The disease often causes acute diarrhoea and can kill within hours, if untreated.
Since the end of October, tens of thousands of people fleeing fighting with the M23 group have joined those already settled for months in sites for displaced people in Nyiragongo territory, a few kilometres north of Goma.
Without proper sanitation and access to clean safe water, cases could rise.
In October this year, the World Health Organization suspended the two-dose cholera vaccine in favour of a single one, due to a supply shortage. This type of protection is however limited.