A cholera epidemic that has already killed 32 people in Democratic Republic of Congo has spread to the capital Kinshasa, said the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Three cases of the deadly waterborne disease have been confirmed since last week in Kinshasa, home to at least 9 million people, many of whom live in cramped, insanitary conditions, Reuters reports.
“If there’s an epidemic here it will be very, very dangerous,” said Eugene Kabambi, communications officer for the WHO. “People are living in very precarious conditions, there are zones along the river which are very exposed.”
Traders travelling by boat down the Congo River are bringing the disease from Bandundu province, he said, near an area where an outbreak has infected more than 680 people and killed 32 this month.
WHO is working with the government and its partners to step up surveillance at Kinshasa’s river ports and identify hospitals that could take patients.
Kinshasa is the second most populous city in sub-Saharan Africa. Much of the population lives in extreme poverty following decades of dictatorship and conflict.
Congo is still recovering from a civil war that ended in 2003, leaving more than 5 million people dead and infrastructure in ruins.