1st Case of Cholera Hits Congo Refugee Camp
GOMA, Congo (AP) - The first case of cholera has emerged among thousands of people in an impromptu refugee camp in eastern Congo who fled fighting between a new rebel group and government forces backed by U.N. peacekeepers, Doctors Without Borders reported on Friday.
Dr. Patrick Wieland said that MSF, as the aid group is known by its French initials, has set up an isolation clinic tent at Kanyaruchinya on the outskirts of the provincial capital of Goma, where between 10,000 and 20,000 civilians have taken refuge in a school, a church and nearby grounds.
Cholera is a contagious disease caused by filth and lack of hygiene. Wieland said humanitarian agencies are delivering water to the camp but people probably are collecting the water with dirty containers. He said there are not enough toilets for the people who fled fighting last week in Rutshuru and neighboring Kiwanja, about 80 kilometers (50 miles) north of Goma.
Rebels last week attacked Congolese army troops and U.N. peacekeepers, firing mortars at the peacekeepers’ base at Kiwanja which was surrounded by more than 2,000 displaced people at the time. Wieland said the fighting was much heavier than any his team has seen in the three-month-old rebellion.
"We’re treating people with arms and legs blown-off by grenades and other heavy arms," said Wieland. He also said that for the first time they treated many more civilians than combatants.
He said that since April, Doctors Without Borders has treated more than 500 people hurt in the conflict.
Congo’s army now controls only the city of Goma and the village of Kibumba, 10 kilometers (six miles) outside Goma. Now the rebels hold all towns going north as far as Rutshuru and are threatening to besiege Goma.
The U.N. Security Council on Thursday demanded that the M23 rebel group halt any advances toward Goma. In a statement delivered by council president Gerard Araud of France, the Security Council expressed deep concern at the worsening humanitarian situation, especially the increasing number of refugees, and called on the international community to provide appropriate humanitarian support.