The southern Democratic Republic of Congo was hit by a deadly cholera the worst ever experienced in recent times. The epidemic has taken a toll of around 60 lives and infected more than 2000 in the Congo province of Katanga alone.
Health officials said on Wednesday that since the start of the year, outbreaks of the waterborne disease swept across both the urban and the rural areas, though the rural areas were the worst hit.
During the rainy season floods pollute water systems and becomes the breeding ground for Cholera. Severe cholera causes sudden diarrhoea that can lead to death due to acute dehydration and kidney failure. Cholera can be prevented by treating drinking water with chlorine and by improving hygiene in the neighborhoods.
The World Health Organization and the Health Ministry said that the cause of the epidemic in the mineral-rich province of Katanga was due to a mining boom that has resulted in a spurt in population in the recent months with the arrival of mining companies.
Katanga's provincial health minister, Augustin Ilunga told Reuters that though Cholera is widely spread in many parts of Congo, sweeping epidemics experienced this year is the worst ever and added that neighborhoods continue to be without drinking water or proper sanitation.
Joseph Prior the head of MSF-Belgium's mission in Congo said that poor families are highly affected because they use contaminated water from wells and springs.
Vital Mondinge Makuma, the official in charge of epidemics surveillance in the ministry of health confirmed that the first cases of the epidemic were noticed between late December and early January in the town of Bukama and the cities of Likasi and Lubumbashi.
The mining city of Likasi and Lubumbashi, the thickly populated capital of Katanga, have been among the worst hit by the epidemic so far. Lubumbashi alone has recorded 1,284 cases and 18 deaths due to cholera since the beginning of January. These figures are relatively unusual.
The disease has almost been brought under control in Bukama and further follow up has been handed over to the ministry of health. The situation is stabilizing in Lubumbashi.
The number of patients continues to increase day by day in Likasi, which has a population of 300,000.
Provincial medical inspector, Eric Mukomena, said that cholera figures are hitting the peak across Congo as there is a possibility of an extension of the epidemic to other cities."
MSF-Belgium is in charge of caring for the sick and leading efforts to combat the outbreak.
Treatment centres set up by MSF in Lubumbashi, Likasi, and the town of Bukama has so far treated 2,784 patients.
Congo's health ministry and MSF have employed 200 doctors, nurses and logistics and experts who are vigorously working in three treatment centres in Lubumbashi and Likasi to combat the disease.
Though MSF-Belgium and local authorities have been carrying out hygiene awareness campaigns through radio and community outreach programmes, measures have not been taken by the Congo health department to treat contaminated water with chlorine to eradicate Cholera.