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WHO sounds alarm on DR Congo health crisis

Geneva, Switzerland, March 29 ------ The World Health Organization sounded the alarm on the worsening health situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where cholera, measles, mpox, anthrax and plague are wreaking havoc. 


The health crisis is being exacerbated by violence, climate shocks, displacement, poverty and malnutrition, the WHO said, as it called for an urgent funding surge. "The challenges faced by the people of DRC have reached alarming levels," said Boureima Hama Sambo, the WHO representative to the DR Congo. "In many parts of the country, particularly in eastern DRC, civilians are tragically caught in renewed fighting, and hospitals are overwhelmed with injured people," he told a press briefing in Geneva, via video-link. 


He said the DRC was facing its worst cholera outbreak since 2017, with 50,000 suspected cases and 470 deaths recorded in 2023. It is also battling the largest epidemic of measles since 2019, with close to 28,000 cases and 750 deaths so far in 2024. Furthermore, the still-emerging outbreak of mpox, formerly known as monkeypox, is on the rise, with nearly 4,000 suspected cases and 271 deaths so far this year. More than two-thirds of the cases are being reported in children. "Anthrax and plague have been also affecting the communities in eastern DRC in the last months," Sambo added. The country is facing the second-largest displacement crisis in the world after Sudan, with close to 10 million people on the move, while poverty and hunger affect a quarter of the population, or 25.4 million people, he said. "Close to 20 million people require health assistance in 2024," he added, but the crisis and the response remains "severely underfunded"."The world should not turn a blind eye to a situation that could have severe knock-on effects for security and health in the region," he said. 


On mpox, cases are spreading to previously-unaffected provinces, including the capital Kinshasa, with the WHO concerned about the threat of expansion into neighbouring countries. The proportion of deaths among cases is rising. The case fatality rate is seven percent this year -- compared to less than 0.2 percent globally. 




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