A cholera epidemic is threatening the refugees fleeing from strife-torn eastern Zaire. The first cholera cases were confirmed last month in capital Goma. Around 36 patients with cholera-like symptoms had been admitted to a hospital, of whom two cases were confirmed and 12 had been administered drugs so their tests did not show positive results. Maria Neira, coordinator for the global task force on cholera control, warned that there was a strong likelihood of an epidemic if no urgent international campaign was launched to provide medical assistance to the millions of people affected by the recent fighting between rebels and government forces.
An outbreak of potentially fatal dysentry has also been predicted by health officials. In 1994, around 50,000 Rwandan refugees in eastern Zaire fell victim to a three-week cholera outbreak. The United Nations has, meanwhile, sanctioned an international force to supply food and medicine to refugees in eastern Zaire.