A cholera outbreak is adding to the woes of thousands of people displaced by a huge munitions blast in the Congolese capital Brazzaville about a month ago, say officials.
“We have 10 confirmed cases of cholera,” Youssouf Gamatié, the UN World Health Organization’s representative in Congo, told IRIN.
Poor hygiene and sanitation conditions in the sites for the displaced as well as ongoing rains have helped spread the disease, which is affecting all age groups, added Gamatié.
The covered market in Nkombo, north Brazzaville, and the down-town Sacred Heart Cathedral sites are the worst affected. Together these two places are providing refuge for 11,000 of the 14,000 people who were displaced by the explosions, according to official estimates.
Alexis Elira Dokekias, director-general of health, told IRIN there were 13 suspected cases of cholera, with one confirmed case; one person had died.
There has been an ongoing cholera epidemic in central and northern Congo since 2011, Dokekias pointed out.
“Inadequate latrines at the sites for the displaced are increasing contamination. There are faeces everywhere. The children sometimes defecate in the yard,” said Guillaume Ibara, a camp resident at the Sacred Heart site.
Jonas Mbelo, 43, who is living at the Nkombo site, told IRIN that meals there are sometimes served after midnight, making the situation even more difficult for the displaced.
Experts from the UN, the armies of Angola, Benin, Chad and the USA, as well as NGOs such as France’s Demeter, the Mines Advisory Group and Handicap International are helping to clean-up the site of the blast.
“We have collected some 16 tons of munitions that we have destroyed,” Congo army spokesperson Col Jean-Robert Obargui told the media.
At least 282 people were killed in the 4 March blast; thousands were injured. The death toll has been revised upwards from an earlier count of 223 dead after the discovery of more bodies.