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UN Appeals for Aid to Fight DR Congo Cholera Outbreak

People gather at a market on July 21, 2011 on the banks of the Congo River near the village of Ngamanzo in the municipality of Maluku, Kinshasa province, an area under surveillance by medical officials for signs of cholera.

The United Nations is appealing for emergency funding to help the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) battle a cholera outbreak that has infected more than 17,000 people.

The U.N.'s humanitarian division says $5.5 million is urgently needed from donors to respond to cases in eight of the DRC's 11 provinces.

Four provinces along the Congo River - Bandundu, Equateur, Kinshasa and Orientale - are the hardest hit.

The DRC is vulnerable to the spread of cholera because many villages have neither clean water nor adequate sanitation systems.

The U.N. says donations received will go toward improving water and sanitation and providing medical assistance for victims.

Cholera is a serious intestinal infection caused by eating food or drinking water contaminated with a bacterium known as vibrio cholerae.

A United Nations report in July said cholera killed 192 people in the Democratic Republic of Congo during the first three months of this year.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.