DR Congo: Ituri's displaced now facing cholera epidemic
"The cholera epidemic can be contained if people remain in Kakwa camp, where they have access to life-saving medical treatment", said Mr Jahal de Meritens, Head of Office, OCHA DRC. "However growing insecurity is forcing them to leave the area, taking the deadly cholera bacteria with them."
Humanitarians confirmed 54 cases of cholera in Kakwa camp on Wednesday, with the number significantly increasing as each day passes. Other cases are now being reported in Tché and Tchomia, most likely spread by those fleeing the growing insecurity in the Kakwa area. One death has been recorded.
"The displaced say they are leaving Kakwa out of fear that that the security situation in the area will deteriorate following the withdrawal of MONUC troops. They are also fleeing harassment by the FARDC troops sent to guard the camp", said Mr de Meritens. "FARDC troops have limited logistical support, and are thus preying on the very population they were sent to protect".
Those fleeing Kakwa are mostly moving west towards Tché camp and south towards Tchomia town.
"Should this disease now take hold in Tché camp, and in Tchomia town, we could be confronted with a humanitarian catastrophe" said Mr de Meritens, noting that over 35,000 displaced people are currently sheltering in these two areas. "Even Bunia town could be threatened by this epidemic, should infected people not find a safe haven with access to medical care and clean water elsewhere in the region."
"The restoration of security in Kakwa camp should now be an urgent priority, as should the continued security of humanitarian workers travelling to and from the area", said Mr de Meritens.
The security situation in Kakwa camp has deteriorated since MONUC troops handed over responsibility for the protection of the camp to the Congolese army, FARDC, on Monday. MONUC withdrew from Tché camp yesterday, handing over the security of Tché camp to the FARDC.
Nearly 100,000 people are receiving emergency humanitarian assistance in the Territory of Djugu, Ituri, after fleeing violence that flared up in the region in late 2004. Over 25,000 people were registered in Kakwa camp last week.
For further information, please contact:
Rachel Scott Leflaive, Public Information,
OCHA, D R Congo
tel +243 81 98 60 444
To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit http://unocha.org/.