Pooled Fund - Fighting cholera, a real, fulltime job

Cholera is endemic in South Kivu, an epidemic a few months ago cost 40 lives. A massive US$ 445,000 project in the city of Bukavu provides 85,000 persons with quality drinking water. The project was financed by the so-called Pooled Fund, the major funding mechanism for humanitarian projects in DRC.

Reporting by Philippe Kropf, PIO OCHA Bukavu

“We collect rain water during the wet season and in the dry season we get it from the lake. Often we get stomach aches or skin rashes. Sometimes we get cholera”, says Bienvenue Kieteshi-Bahati, an unemployed 23 year old we meet in the outskirts of Bukavu, the capital of South Kivu province in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). In the densely populated neighbourhood called “Brasserie” – named after the local brewery – clean drinking water is often in short supply and a precious commodity.

Cholera, a sickness caused by consuming contaminated water or food, has been endemic in parts of South Kivu. In 2011 over 6,000 cases and 40 deaths were reported by the medical authorities. An epidemic outbreak in the city of Bukavu between November 2011 and February 2012 infected over 1,000 persons. A non-existing water supply in most parts of the city and water sources lying below latrines are the main structural reasons.

OCHA sounded the alarm bell early this year after an outbreak of cholera in South Kivu that peaked in mid-January, with over 350 cases per week (http://unocha.org/top-stories/all-stories/drc-fighting-cholera-chlorinat...). The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) financed a first response and in February a project targeting the three health zones of the City with a total of over 600,000 habitants took over with a budget of US$ 454,748 coming from the Common Humanitarian Fund (CHF) (http://www.unocha.org/what-we-do/humanitarian-financing/pooled-funds).

This fund is better known as “Pooled Fund” as it collects the contributions of several donors. It intends to provide consistent, early and predictable funding to the most critical humanitarian needs. The Pooled Fund is at the moment the largest source of funding for humanitarian projects in the DRC. It works via implementing NGO partners such as the NGO Oxfam that runs the comprehensive and ongoing program to prevent cholera and other water-borne disease in Bukavu. Other major actors in South Kivu battling cholera are the NGOs Action contre la faim (ACF), Doctors without borders (MSF), Hope in Action (HIA) or “Médecins d’afrique” (MDA).

In cooperation with the local health authorities needs in the popular quarters of Bukavu affected by cholera were assessed, surveillance and contingency planning reinforced and last July Oxfam installed the first of now sixty chloration points. These water sources are manned for twelve hours per day by volunteers of the Congolese Red Cross who add chlorine to the jugs that the habitants can fill for free. Around 700 households show up daily at each of these chloration points and take home 60 litres of quality drinking water on average. An estimated 85,000 people benefit from the project. While chloration points may be the most visible part of the Oxfam project they are but one element of a comprehensive approach including the rehabilitation of waterways and pipes, capturing 16 sources and constructing 200 family latrines.

“Equally important as those activities is raising awareness with the population,” explains Clotilde Ngazia, the provincial coordinator of the NGO “Action Santé Femme” (ASAF) working with Oxfam. “We go from door to door to inform all households about cholera, the importance of proper hygiene practices and hand out soap and leaflets in the local language Kiswahili.” Each animator visits 20 families a day working from eight to five. “This is a real fulltime job,” she adds with a smile. Her work and the work of all the humanitarians fighting cholera pay off: “Cholera in South Kivu has gone back by nearly half”, explains Patrick Bahizi, Medical Doctor with the provincial health authorities. “From 6,800 cases we have dropped to around 3,500 cases compared to the same period last year.”

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