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Cholera outbreak kills dozens of DRC refugees in Uganda

Uganda’s ministry of Health has confirmed that there is an active cholera outbreak in Congolese refugee settlements in Uganda’s Hoima and Kyangwali districts.According to the ministry’s statement released this morning investigations indicate that the refugees from Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) contracted the infection from their places of origin and along the way to Uganda.

The statement further indicates that as of February 22nd a total of 22 deaths and 532 suspected cases of cholera have been reported from Kyangwali refugee settlement.

Between February 17 and 20, 961 new refugee arrivals had entered Uganda from the Democratic of the Congo (DRC), bringing the total number of new arrivals since January 1, 2018, to 42,784.

Of these 27,349 people fled inter-ethnic violence in DRC’s Ituri region and entered Uganda across Lake Albert using fishing boats and canoes.

Another 15,435 refugees arrived from North Kivu through Uganda’s southwestern borders with the DRC, mainly in Kisoro, Kanungu and Ntoroko districts.

Dr. Julius Kasozi, the UNHCR’s Public Health Officer confirmed that some of the patients crossing into Uganda over Lake Albert by boat present symptoms like diarrhea and severe dehydration on arrival.

“It is possible that bacteria are spread through disease carriers who do not present symptoms, or through unhygienic practices like open defecation and drinking unsafe water from the lake,” he said.

A multi-agency Cholera Task Force convened by Uganda’s Ministry of Health and UNHCR is meeting daily to coordinate the response.

Cholera is a serious acute infectious disease characterized by watery diarrhea, vomiting and kills a person within a few hours.

It can be spread through eating and drinking foods contaminated with faeces of an infected person.

Other factors responsible for its spread include; poor personal hygiene especially not washing hands after visiting the latrines, using contaminated water, poor sanitation as occurs in open defecation, eating food prepared under unhygienic conditions, and drinking contaminated water.

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