UNICEF and WHO launch Congo cholera initiatives

The World Health Organization and UNICEF have used the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund to launch multiple initiatives to combat, treat and prevent cholera in the Republic of the Congo.

In some areas of the country, including Isle M'bamou and the capital cities of Brazzaville and Kinshasa, cholera outbreaks can cause a scourge due to a lack of running water, electricity and hospitals. When a recent outbreak hit Brazzaville, squatter settlements with poor sanitation were majorly impacted.

"In Brazzaville, the hygiene conditions are very precarious, (especially) in some of the suburbs like the Tsieme zone," Jean de Dieu Konongo, a WHO specialist, said. "The sanitation system is not working properly, and there isn't enough drinking water available, and most of the houses are informal."

WHO and UNICEF used the emergency response fund to launch initiatives that established chlorination points on the island and to train workers to purify water for cooking, bathing and drinking. Latrines were built in public spaces and a social mobilization program has taught the villagers the importance of clean water and hygiene.

"The Central Emergency Response Fund has been very vital in bringing quickly assistance to the areas that were affected by cholera, for example these islands here in the river, between the two countries," Marianne Flach, a UNICEF representative in the Republic of the Congo, said. "There's no electricity, there's no clean water, they have no health center. It's a population that needs a lot of our assistance and we often forget about them, so it's very good that we've been able to use the Central Emergency Response Funds to give assistance to these islands."

With the next rainy season and a heightened chance of the disease spreading, communities with better access to clean water, latrines and more hygiene knowledge can protect themselves more effectively against cholera.