Ethnic Violence and Cholera in Central Africa

Ethnic violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo has been a major cause of human displacement. Some children have fled all alone to Betou, Congo-Brazzaville, located in an area affected by cholera.
Today, the United Nations (UN) refugee agency shared the story of Obed, who had a happy childhood in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) before his family had to go on the run.

Living in the vicinity of Libenge with lots of friends and idolizing football-star Ronaldino, Obed was content until his family got caught up in ethnic violence that has blighted the DRC.

His memory of the day his life changed is vivid. He remembers it was a Wednesday and that his father, a priest and a nurse, was treating victims of a car accident at a local hospital. This meant that his father was unable to lead the religious service at his church on time, prompting rumours he was favouring the rival, the Lobala group.

“He was just doing his job at his best. I was proud of him,” said Obed of his father.

Forced to flee for their lives, Obed, his mother, father and eight other family members crossed the Ubangui River in the dark of night, arriving in Betou, Republic of Congo, some days later.

The Republic of Congo is often called Congo-Brazzaville, to distinguish it from its neighbour, the DRC. Brazzaville is the nation’s capital.

Fighting broke out between the Lobala and Boba ethnic groups in 2010. That was two years ago. But, Obed and his family still live in the refugee camp there.

Betou is home to 17,000 families. More than half of the 60,000 inhabitants are children like Obed. Some among them are orphans or unaccompanied minors, forced to leave their communities without the protection of their parents and make their own way to safety.

But the difficulties have not ended at Betou. Fighting cholera in the camp and in other areas has proven challenging. The soap and relief supplies provided by the UNHCR help camp inmates fend of the illness has been vital.

Health authorities report that there have been 240 cholera cases, including nine fatalities, since June of last year in the northern Likouala district.

The IRIN reports that the epidemic struck a 500km-radious between Betou and Liranga.

Already, the past six months have seen upwards of $13 million allocated to fighting the disease, said Elisabeth Byrs, spokesperson for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Geneva today.

The UN has been working with Congolese officials by opening cholera treatments centres, water purification and management of water infrastructure, training health professionals and undertaking public

At present, the key emergency relief needs of refugees include food, water, hygiene and sanitation, nonfood items, protection and emergency shelters, says the UN.
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