Human Lives Human Rights: In a distressing report released on Friday, UNICEF disclosed that the Democratic Republic of Congo has been grappling with a staggering 31,342 suspected or confirmed cases of cholera, coupled with 230 fatalities, during the initial seven months of 2023. Of profound concern is the significant impact on children, many of whom have fallen victim to this disease.
The province of North Kivu has borne the brunt of this outbreak, experiencing over 21,400 confirmed or suspected cholera cases. Most unsettling is the distressing fact that more than 8,000 of these cases involve children under the age of 5.
Expressing deep apprehension, Shameza Abdulla, UNICEF DRC Senior Emergency Coordinator, emphasized the urgent need for action to curtail this crisis. Abdulla cautioned that without swift intervention in the coming months, there looms a real danger of the disease spreading to regions untouched by cholera for an extended period.
An equally worrisome concern is the potential for cholera to persist within displacement sites, where existing systems are already overwhelmed. In these settings, the population, especially vulnerable children, faces elevated risks of falling ill and even succumbing to the disease.
This isn’t the first time the country has grappled with cholera’s devastation. In 2017, the contagion surged across the Congo, including its capital, Kinshasa, resulting in almost 55,000 cases and a tragic toll of more than 1,100 deaths.
UNICEF, in its urgent appeal, seeks $62.5 million to intensify prevention and response efforts against cholera, as well as address a pressing WASH (water, sanitation, and hygiene) crisis. Over the next five months, the initiative aims to reach a considerable 1.8 million individuals, including 1 million children, by delivering essentials such as safe water, hygiene kits, latrines, medical supplies, and child-centered cholera care. However, the current funding for this appeal stands at a mere 9%, underscoring the critical need for swift and substantial support to mitigate the burgeoning humanitarian catastrophe.