The World Health
Organization says it appears to be holding the line against the cholera
outbreak in the eastern DRC. Close to two thousand cases of the disease had
been reported in North and South Kivu Provinces as of last week.
Dr. Clair-Lise Chaignat is the head of the World
Health Organization's Global Taskforce on Cholera Control. From Geneva, she
told VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua that re-hydration
treatments continue to be shipped into the DRC from Entebbe, Uganda.
"From what we heard from…our staff member in
Goma, it seems that the cases are not increasing, at least at the locations he
had been. Now, what we have to know is it's very difficult to have an overall
picture because the communication is still difficult…. There are still some
pockets of locations that we have no access to and no information from. So, we
are happy that so far there is not a big epidemic, but we have to continue to
be vigilant. We have to continue to put in place preventive measures," she
Dr. Chaignat says she does not have any accurate
new estimates on the number of people who have cholera or on the number of
deaths from the disease. She says, "The surveillance system is in place, but
it's not really…functioning (in a way) that you can get regular updates.… But
the overall feeling is it's not exploding for the time being, which is very
good. So, it's still in the pre-epidemic period."
She says the treatments centers, which provide
re-hydration fluids and salts, are located in Goma and in camps for the
displaced north of Goma. She cannot confirm there are any in the Rutshuru area,
where much of the recent fighting has taken place. However, the area is known
for its frequent cholera outbreaks, so there's a good chance treatment centers
already existed there and may still be functioning.
Asked how the WHO can learn more about areas
where there is little contact, such as combat zones, Chaignat says, "I'm sure
that they can use…satellite pictures, satellite images to get a hint of where
they could be, aggregation of population, that might have fled certain areas
where the fighting had been intense. Then it depends on how the network of
local workers can be intensified so that you can get information from (them).
Compared to her assessment of a week ago,
she says she is more optimistic about dealing with the cholera outbreak. "But
nevertheless, it's not reason to stop doing efforts for prevention and
preparedness because we want to make sure that we're going to avert a big epidemic
in the near future and the mid-term," she says.