Doctors without Borders fears cholera outbreak among volcanic refugees in Congo

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) fears an outbreak of cholera in the places where displaced people who have fled Nyiragongo volcano, in eastern Congo, are. The aid organization is calling for mobilization to assist them immediately.

More than 400,000 people fled the city of Goma on Thursday, which is threatened by a new eruption of the Nyiragongo volcano. The authorities ordered the evacuation of the city.

Images of the flight from Goma
©AP – Images of the flight from Goma

In panic and chaos, residents have taken to the streets to the town of Sake in the northwest, Rutshuru in the north and Minova in the neighbouring province of South Kivu. In Sake, MSF has been active against cholera for several years. According to Roudaut, 100,000 to 180,000 people have flocked to the town, on top of the normal population of 70,000 people.

“We fear an epidemic outbreak of cholera. The risk is increased in this zone, where cholera was already endemic,” said Magali Roudaut, head of MSF’s mission in Congo, based in Goma. “With the populations moving, this would be a disaster.”

Access to water

“The big problem is access to water. It is essential that there is potable water for this population,” she said. “The displaced people stay in the religious centres, churches, temples or mosques and other collective centres. Many people stay outside, even though the people of Sake are incredibly hospitable.”

MSF was immediately mobilized and provided water reservoirs. The needs are “urgent and numerous,” said Roudaut. “This crisis requires immediate support and mobilization.”

Refugee children and people at a food distribution point in Sake
©AP – Refugee children and people at a food distribution point in Sake

What is Cholera?

The cholera bacteria spread cholera, and it spreads through water or food. Symptoms are diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting. The people who die of the disease are usually already malnourished and debilitated. Dehydration symptoms resulting from vomiting and diarrhoea can lead to death in such individuals within hours.

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