UPDF Contingent Joins Drive To Fight Cholera in DRC

The Uganda Peoples’ Defence Forces (UPDF) Contingent, part of the East African Regional Force (EACRF), has joined forces with the local community to combat the outbreak of Cholera in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The Cholera outbreak has been reported in Mabenga and Kiwanja, located in Rutshuru territory. To mitigate the rapid spread of this waterborne disease, one of the measures taken was the restoration of clean piped water in Tshengerero Cell.

The UPDF Contingent’s water engineering team provided technical assistance in repairing a 400-meter-long plastic water pipeline that had been vandalized by local scrap dealers in Bunagana town. The pipeline was replaced with a metallic pipe.

This project aims to provide safe water to Tshengerero Centre and the surrounding villages of Mukingo, Cheya, Rubona, and Kibindi localities (Parishes) in the Jomba Group Sub-county. The local leadership in these areas has reported cases of Cholera epidemics.

Colonel Michael Walaka Hyeroba, the UPDF Contingent Commander, emphasized that the lack of access to safe drinking water and sanitation is the root cause of waterborne epidemics. The community has been resorting to using contaminated water and food, along with improper disposal of fecal waste, which likely contributes to the spread of infectious diseases in Mabenga and Rutshuru. Colonel Hyeroba stated, “We cannot claim to provide peace and security to the people of Rutshuru territory in DRC while they lack one of life’s basic necessities: water. It is crucial for us to ensure that the community has access to adequate, clean, and safe water to promote proper sanitation and curb the spread of Cholera.”

Major James Mukwhana, the deputy commanding officer of UPDF’s 27th Battalion based in Tshengerero, stated that this response aligns with their efforts to combat Cholera, which is currently a major concern for the Ugandan Contingent.

Mr. Sejumba Kamara, the local Chief of the area, mentioned that the initial water facility was constructed by KOGA, a Community Based Organization, before the outbreak of conflict in 2021. It provided clean and sufficient water to over 1000 people. However, metal scrap dealers vandalized the metallic water pipes and other structures, leaving thousands without access to clean water in the face of the Cholera threat. Chief Kamara expressed gratitude to the UPDF for their swift response and pledged to protect the water pipes and facility from tampering in the future.

The Cholera epidemic in Mabenga and Kiwanja was reported by Medicines Sans Frontiers (MSF) and the Red Cross Society in June 2023. In response, these organizations established management camps in Kiwanja and Rutshuru, including community sensitization efforts, in an attempt to contain the disease. As of 3rd July 2023, the epidemic had claimed 13 lives between 28th June and 3rd July.

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