The United Nations is appealing for emergency funding to help it battle a cholera outbreak that has infected more than 17,000 people in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The organization's humanitarian division said that $5.5 million is urgently needed from donors to respond to cases in eight of the 11 provinces in the DRC. Four provinces along the Congo River – Orientale, Kinshasa, Equateur and Bandundu – are the hardest hit, Voice of America reports.
The country is vulnerable to the spread of cholera because many villages have neither adequate sanitation systems or clean water. The U.N. said that donations received will go toward providing medical assistance for victims and improving water and sanitation.
A July U.N. report said cholera killed 192 people in the Democratic Republic of Congo during the first three months of this year, according to Voice of America.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cholera is an acute diarrheal illness that is caused by infection of the intestine with the Vibrio cholerae bacterium. The organization estimates that there are three to five million cases and more than 100,000 deaths each year around the world as a result of cholera. Infection is usually mild or without symptoms, but it can sometimes be severe. Approximately one in 20 infected persons will have the severe disease, characterized by vomiting, profuse watery diarrhea and leg cramps.