21 February 2012Efforts to combat the spread of cholera in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) remain underfunded, the United Nations humanitarian office reported today, saying the lack of access to potable water is the single most important cause of recurring outbreaks of the disease in the country. Over the past six months, the UN-managed Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) has allocated more than $13 million to support the fight against cholera, according to Elisabeth Byrs, spokesperson for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Geneva.She told reporters that the UN World Health Organization (WHO) had confirmed that cholera had spread to the Bas-Congo province in the east, which means that nine of the country’s 11 provinces have been affected by the disease.The UN and other humanitarian agencies have been working with the Congolese Government for over a year to combat the disease. The response has included establishing cholera treatment centres, providing water chlorination points and refurbishing water points, conducting awareness campaigns using the media, training of medical staff, and disinfecting boats.Cholera is an acute intestinal infection caused by eating food or drinking water contaminated with the bacterium known as vibrio cholerae. The disease has a short incubation period and produces a toxin that causes continuous watery diarrhoea, a condition that can quickly lead to severe dehydration and death if treatment is not administered promptly. Vomiting also occurs in most patients.Meanwhile, more than 16,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) have moved to Mitwaba and Pweto territories in the southern Katanga province fleeing human rights violations over the past month, Ms. Byrs.Despite limited time on the ground and severe security restrictions, the inter-agency assessment mission identified the requirements of the IDPs as food, water, sanitation and hygiene, non-food items, protection and emergency shelter.