If the cholera outbreak reaches Kinshasa, it would spread like a wild fire.
The World Health Organization is stepping up efforts to control multiple cholera outbreaks in Africa and the Middle East to prevent the disease from spreading and threatening the health of thousands of people.
More than 10,700 cholera cases and 170 deaths are reported in five countries in the Eastern Mediterranean and African regions, Iraq, Bahrain, Kuwait, Democratic Republic of Congo and Tanzania.
WHO's Dr. Dominique Legros, who heads U.N. agency's Department of Pandemic and Epidemic Diseases, says he is particularly worried about the cholera situation in the African Region where the worst El Nino conditions in the past 20 years are forecast.
He says this weather phenomenon is expected to trigger torrential rains in the coming months and cause an upsurge in water-borne diseases, including cholera.
“The last time we had that situation in Eastern Africa was in 1997-‘98 in four countries of the region: Tanzania, Uganda, Mozambique, Kenya," he said. "At that time, we had within two years 200,000 cases of cholera and 8,000 deaths ... we have to really be ready for this and try to control the outbreak as soon as possible.”
WHO has recorded nearly 4,000 cases of cholera, including 95 deaths in Democratic Republic of Congo. Legros says a team is being sent to Equateur Province, the scene of a recent cholera outbreak, to see how to prevent spread of the disease down the Congo River.