Congo: April 5, 2005


Add a cholera epidemic to the problems in the northeastern Congo. Approximately 500 people in refugee camps in Ituri province have contracted cholera. The latest reports give the death toll at 20, but that could rise sharply within days. UN sources say the first case appeared March 26. By April first the number of cases hit 110. April 4 the number approached 500. The epicenter of the outbreak is the Kafe Refugee Camp (near Lake Albert). Poor hygiene and bad water are typical conditions in refugee camps-- and they are the conditions that make for a cholera outbreak. Poor nutrition contributes to the spread of disease, and UN sources have documented an increase in food shortages throughout Ituri.

Meanwhile, combat continues. The UN reported that peacekeepers in the UN's Ituri Brigade killed 38 militiamen in a series of battles that took place April 2 and April 3. The major April 2 battle started when peacekeepers were searching a refugee camp and located a large weapons cache. Militiamen fired on the peacekeepers. The UN soldiers responded with heavy fire and attack helicopters. 18 militiamen died in that action. UN peacekeepers are expected to become even more aggressive. The UN command set an April 1 deadline for militias in Ituri to hand in their weapons. Interestingly enough, the UN reports that 8,200 militiamen have surrendered themselves and their weapons to the UN-- but that leaves another estimated 6000 to 7000 militiamen in Ituri.


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