Doctors struggled Sunday to contain an outbreak of cholera in a sprawling refugee camp near Congo's eastern provincial capital of Goma, as renewed fighting ignited fears that patients could scatter and launch an epidemic.
Congolese soldiers and rebels were seen less than 900 yards apart near Goma, where rebel leader Laurent Nkunda declared a cease-fire Oct. 29.
Rebels and soldiers clashed Thursday just north of the Kibati refugee camp, seven miles from Goma.
Some 50,000 refugees have crowded around Kibati, some taken into log cabins by villagers, others living in tents or hastily built beehive-shaped huts.
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Doctors Without Borders said it treated 13 new cases of cholera in Kibati on Sunday and has seen 45 cases since Friday. Dr. Rafaela Gentilini said shortages of water and latrines were making the outbreak “really dangerous.”
Dozens of people have died of cholera in recent weeks elsewhere in eastern Congo. Doctors also fear an epidemic north of Goma behind rebel lines, where access has been limited by fighting and rebels have driven tens of thousands of people from camps where outbreaks had been contained.
At the front line near Kibati, intermittent gunshots crackled. The fighting is fueled by ethnic hatred left over from the 1994 slaughter of at least 500,000 Tutsis in Rwanda. Nkunda, whose rebels launched an offensive Aug. 28, first said he was fighting to protect minority Tutsis from Rwandan Hutu militants who had fled to Congo.
Now he says he wants to “liberate” all Congo from an allegedly corrupt government.