DR Congo launches major cholera vaccination campaign in North Kivu

A worker at an emergency cholera treatment centre gets her shoes disinfected in Kinshasa on January 18, 2018. The World Health Organization (WHO) on January 15 said there was a high risk of a cholera epidemic after flooding in Kinshasa, the teeming and ramshackle capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Beyond the capital, the latest cholera outbreak has affected 23 of the 26 provinces in the vast central African country since 2017, with "almost 50,000 cases and around 1,000 deaths", MSF estimates. Such figures make it the worst outbreak in DR Congo since 1994. / AFP PHOTO / JOHN WESSELS (Photo credit should read JOHN WESSELS/AFP/Getty Images)
A sign in French, “Protégeons nous du choléra” (“Let’s protect ourselves against cholera”) is erected on the so-called “People Beach” along the Lake Kivu in Goma. (Photo by Thierry Falise/LightRocket via Getty Images)

The World Health Organisation said the Ministry of Health in the Democratic Republic of Congo will immunise more than 800,000 people against cholera in North Kivu following the launch of a major campaign on Monday.

The first of two doses of oral cholera vaccine (OCV) are to be administered in Binza, Goma, Kayina, Karisimbi, Kibirizi, Kirotshe and Rutshuru areas by June 1 2019.

A campaign to administer the second dose will be done later to provide full protection against cholera.

“The DRC is confronted with an unprecedented combination of deadly epidemics. While the Ebola outbreak continues to cause untold misery in the East, measles and cholera epidemics are claiming the lives of thousands of people throughout the country. That’s why we are stepping up our response, through this cholera vaccination campaign, through ongoing measles vaccinations in health zones affected by measles outbreaks, as well as through our continued support for Ebola vaccinations in both the DRC and neighbouring countries,” Dr Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, said.

Acting WHO Representative in the DR Congo Dr. Deo Nshimirimana said the campaign in the most exposed health zones will protect hundreds of thousands of people against cholera and raise population immunity levels.

Over 10,000 cases of cholera have been reported in the DR Congo since January 2019 resulting in more than 240 deaths. Moreover, over 80,000 suspected cases of measles have led to over 1,400 deaths so far in 2019 while a case of circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus type 2 was reported in Kasai province earlier in May.

The doses of vaccine were taken from the global cholera vaccine stockpile fully funded by Gavi, which is also supporting operational costs for the campaign.

Cholera is an extremely virulent disease that can cause severe acute watery diarrhoea. It takes between 12 hours and 5 days for a person to show symptoms after ingesting contaminated food or water. Cholera affects both children and adults and can kill within hours if untreated.

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