The Uganda Peoples’ Defence Forces (UPDF) contingent, operating as part of the East African Regional Force (EACRF) to maintain peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), has teamed up with the local community to battle a cholera outbreak.
The outbreak has been identified in Mabenga and Kiwanja, within the Rutshuru territory. Restoring clean piped water in Tshengerero Cell has become a priority to halt the rapid spread of the waterborne disease.
The UPDF contingent’s water engineering team offered technical assistance in repairing a 400-meter plastic water pipeline, which was previously damaged by local scrap dealers in Bunagana town. The pipeline was converted into a metallic pipe to prevent future vandalism.
This project aims to supply safe water to Tshengerero Centre and nearby villages, including Mukingo, Cheya, Rubona, and Kibindi localities, which make up the Jomba Group Sub-county. The local leadership has reported cholera epidemics in these areas.
Col Michael Walaka Hyeroba, the UPDF Contingent Commander, emphasized that access to safe drinking water and sanitation is essential to prevent waterborne epidemics. The community’s reliance on contaminated water and food, along with poor waste disposal, could be the primary cause of the infectious disease in parts of Mabenga and Rutshuru.
He further explained, “We cannot say that we are in DRC to provide peace and security to the people of Rutshuru territory when people lack water as one of the basic needs of life. It’s therefore critical that we had to ensure that the community has access to adequate, clean and safe water to enable good sanitation as soon as possible to curtail the spread of Cholera”.
Maj James Mukwhana, Deputy Commanding Officer of UPDF 27th Battalion in Tshengerero, stated that this intervention aligns with Uganda’s efforts to combat cholera, currently considered a primary enemy.
Mr. Sejumba Kamara, the local Chief, revealed that the original water facility, serving over 1,000 people, was constructed by KOGA, a community-based organization before the conflict erupted in the territory in 2021.
Unfortunately, metal scrap dealers vandalized the metallic water pipes, leaving thousands without access to clean water amidst the cholera threat. Chief Kamara expressed gratitude for the UPDF’s swift response and pledged to protect the water pipes from future tampering.
The cholera epidemic was reported in parts of Mabenga and Kiwanja by Medicines Sans Frontiers (MSF) and the Red Cross Society in June 2023. In response, these organizations established management camps in Kiwanja and Rutshuru, and initiated community awareness drives to limit the disease’s spread. Between June 28 and July 3, 2023, the outbreak has resulted in 13 fatalities.
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