Nearly 300 cases of cholera have been registered in three internally displaced camps outside Goma in the eastern DR Congo, a regional health official said Thursday after a tour of inspection.
"We have registered 295 cases of cholera since October 22" in three camps 15 kilometres (nine miles) northeast of Goma, DRC regional health inspector Guy Mutombo told AFP, blaming the outbreak on a lack of potable water in the city of more than half a million people.
"The cholera situation has been aggravated in the last few weeks because everyone, the local population and the displaced, must drink water from Lake Kivu that hasn't been treated," Mutombo said, referring to the lake on the edge of the town.
A good part of Goma, the chief town of a strife-wracked eastern province of the Democratic Republic of Congo, lacks direct access to potable water since the distribution facilities were destroyed by molten lava when Nyiragongo volcano erupted in 2002.
The lastest estimates bring the number of people afflicted with cholera, a highly contagious intestinal infection, to 418 in the whole Goma area, Mutombo said. He added that there has been no deaths registered yet due to cholera. Cholera can be fatal if left untreated.
Medical care for the infected is supported through aid from WHO, money earmarked by the United Nations specifically to help children, and two non-governmental organisations, including Doctors without Borders (MSF) and International Medical Care (IMC).
According to the United Nations, 58,800 people have found refuge on the outskirts of Goma in camps or with families since fighting began at the end of August between the regular Congolese army and rebels in the region.
They are among several hundred thousand villagers displaced by conflict in the province involving the regular army and several insurgent forces, all of which are accused of atrocities against civilians.