Floods in DRC: in Kalehe, the health situation worries health professionals
In Kalehe, flood survivors were still trying to find their missing loved ones on May 8, 2023. AFP - GUERCHOM NDEBO
Text by: RFI Follow
A week after the tragedy in Kalehe territory in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, the health consequences of the floods are worrying. At least 400 people died as a result of heavy rains that hit the region on Thursday (May 4th). The balance sheet is not final since all the bodies have not yet been buried due to lack of accessibility. However, there is urgency, because new diseases could appear and affect survivors.
With our special envoy in Kalehe, Coralie Pierret
At Kalehe Hospital, the main health facility in the region, there are fears of a new cholera outbreak. It would not be the first, the area is endemic, but today the means are meagre. However, there is a real risk "given that there are decomposing bodies," says Robert Massamba, the chief doctor of Kalehe hospital, who is also worried about other diarrhoeal diseases. The springs have been ravaged and are filled with mud. There is no drinking water in the area and only potentially contaminated lake water is accessible.
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Local authorities insist that some stagnant sludge be removed as bodies may still be there. The idea is also to facilitate communication between the affected villages. Especially for the inhabitants of Nyamukubi, isolated, because the road has been cut. To refuel themselves, they are forced to go and take a canoe that remains dangerous in case of rain and rising waters.
Hospital expects new patients to arrive
At the hospital, the number of patients has decreased, but new patient arrivals are still expected. Every day, Robert Massamba makes the rounds of intensive care. Today, only so-called "stable" patients remain. But three days after the tragedy, the hospital was full, although it received only a part of the wounded.
If we, at the hospital level, had only 76 injured in view of the disaster, it is because there is no road. And then we don't have an ambulance to help us evacuate the sick. In total, if we estimate all the injured who were affected by the disaster, they are around 600 to have been identified and to be alive, "says the chief doctor of Kalehe hospital.
Five more seriously injured were evacuated to the provincial hospital in Bukavu on Tuesday (May 9th), nearly a week after the tragedy, says Ulrich Crépin of the NGO MSF. "Why does it continue? Because it's a disaster and when it happens, it's panic. It's a psychological shock. We know of families who took injured relatives and fled with them for safety. That's why we continue to see new patients in the hospital."
For survivors, the trauma is immense, health professionals insist. A trauma that is not yet treated.
Today, it is the great emergency. We must ensure that field actors are physically present with teams and equipment to keep these people alive.
Yvon Edoumou, OCHA spokesperson in DRC
Pauline Le Troquier
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