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Congo refugees face cholera threat

GOMA, Congo — The first case of cholera has emerged among thousands of people in an impromptu refugee camp in eastern Congo, where they fled to after fighting between a new rebel group and government forces backed by UN peacekeepers, Doctors Without Borders said.

Dr. Patrick Wieland said Doctors Without Borders has set up an isolation clinic tent at Kanyaruchinya outside the provincial capital of Goma, where between 10,000 and 20,000 people have taken refuge in a school, a church, and nearby grounds.

Cholera is a contagious disease caused by filth and lack of hygiene. Wieland said humanitarian agencies are delivering water to the camp but people probably are collecting the water in dirty containers. He said there are not enough toilets for those who fled fighting last week in Rutshuru and neighboring Kiwanja, about 50 miles north of Goma.

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Rebels last week attacked Congolese army troops and UN peacekeepers, firing mortars at the peacekeepers’ base at Kiwanja, which was surrounded by more than 2,000 displaced people at that time. Wieland said the fighting was much heavier than any his team has seen in the three-month-old rebellion.

‘‘We’re treating people with arms and legs blown off by grenades and other heavy arms,’’ said Wieland. He also said that for the first time they treated many more civilians than combatants.

Associated Press