DR Congo: Cholera outbreak in the east of the country

Public hand-washing stations improve hygiene and prevent the spread of diseases such as cholera.

Following a cholera outbreak in the province of North Kivu, Johanniter has taken measures to protect the population from infection and to contain further spread. Isolation wards are being set up for this purpose.

In early January, a new cholera outbreak was reported in the village of Bihambwe, a two-hour drive northwest of Goma city. A woman and her child presented at the local health centre with diarrhoea and vomiting. In the following six weeks, the facility recorded a total of 70 cholera cases, two people died as a result of the disease. All those who fell ill came from five villages in the Bihambwe region.

"The cholera outbreak shows how important it is that health structures and the population are prepared to react quickly and avoid deaths," says Melanie Plöger, Head of Mission of Johanniter International Assistance in DRC.

Quick measures protect against infection

Awareness raising about infectious diseases is an essential part of Johanniter activities in the DR Congo.

Johanniter is implementing a project in the region to improve medical care for the population. Within that activities, immediate action was taken to prevent further spread. The affected health centre is supported by the Johanniter team in caring for the patients - among other things, with medication and training. In addition, as a preventive measure, 15 hand-washing stations were installed at central places such as schools, churches and the market. Around 1,000 residents of the region were educated about protective measures against infection.

The isolation ward at the Bihambwe health centre, which was built and equipped by Johanniter in 2020, is used to treat cholera patients. A water supply system with reservoir, also built as part of this project, enables the population to have access to clean water.

To prepare the region for future cholera outbreaks, Johanniter is currently building two more isolation wards in other villages. In addition, the health zones in the region are receiving cholera treatment kits for additional patient care. The current cholera measures are financially supported by the German Federal Foreign Office, the renovation of the health centre and the water system in Bihambwe was financed by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).

Largest number of hungry people in the world

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) fears that some 27 million people in the DR Congo will face acute food insecurity this year. No other country in the world has more people going hungry than the DRC - many of them children. In addition, the country has the highest number of internally displaced persons on the African continent: 5.5 million people have fled due to armed conflicts and live in extreme poverty. Johanniter, which has been working in the eastern part of the country for 14 years, will continue to provide medical care and save lives.

Ein Baby wird auf dem Schoß seine Mutter von einem Arzt untersucht

For stable health care in times of crisis

Johanniter supports 13 health stations in eastern DR Congo to provide medical services to people. In times of hunger, this is especially important.