YAOUNDE, Cameroon

More than a million people will be vaccinated against cholera in a five-day campaign in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) South Kivu province, authorities said.

The oral vaccination campaign, which started on Wednesday in Uvira, is organized by the Health Ministry with the support of World Health Organization, UNICEF and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.

It will run in 59 areas across five major health zones: Fizi, Idjwi, Minova, Nundu and Uvira. Most of them are surrounded by lakes Kivu and Tanganyika, considered endemic to cholera.

They were severely affected by flooding last April. Heavy rains killed dozens of people besides extensive material damage.

“This oral cholera vaccination campaign in South Kivu reminds us that the DRC is not only facing Ebola in Equateur province and COVID-19 in 15 of its 26 provinces, but also cholera and measles, epidemics that kill in silence and for which we must mobilize more,” Dr Amedee Prosper Djiguimde, in charge of DRC WHO office, said.

Cosmos Bishisha, South Kivu’s health minster, said the approach will achieve “the goal of providing safe and effective oral vaccine to those who are most at risk, and who were most exposed to the recent flooding.”

Cholera is endemic, the consequence of poor sanitation and the dirty water that many families rely on for drinking and washing. It causes the body to secrete enormous amounts of water, leading to diarrhea and a rapid loss of fluids and salts.

The DRC’s battered healthcare system needs urgent support as besides cholera and measles, it is also struggling with the coronavirus pandemic.

The Central African country has so far confirmed 3,200 COVID-19 infections, including 54 virus-linked deaths, according to the latest figures by Johns Hopkins University. 

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