Doctors fear rising cost of Rwanda life-saving

MUGUNGA - A virulent strain of dysentery is spreading like wildfire among Rwandan refugees languishing in Zaire, threatening to push the cost of saving lives beyond the means of relief organisations, doctors say.

Rwanda's Prime Minister, Faustin Twagiramungu, speaking in his capital, Kigali, said his country had no money and would have no chance of recovery until an estimated 2 million refugees returned to rebuild its economy.

The contagious, bloody diarrhoea, which is proving resistant to cheap antibiotics in use in the refugee camps, has replaced cholera as the main killer of Rwandans in eastern Zaire. 'Antibiotics we use still seem efficient but the bacteria has quickly developed other levels of resistance, and we have to resort to more sophisticated and more expensive medicine,' said Dr Michel Piperno of Medecins du Monde (Doctors of the World) at Mugunga camp.

'You can be using an antibiotic one day and three days later it can prove completely useless,' said Colonel Francois Merouze, head of the French military medical emergency unit, Bioforce, which is operating at Goma airport in eastern Zaire.

He said the drug most commonly used by health workers cost around 75 francs ( pounds 9) per head for a five-day treatment. 'We already face a cost problem so you can imagine what it would be with doses costing up to 200, 300 francs,' he added.

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) says at least 25,000 people have died over the past three weeks in Goma from malnutrition, dehydration, cholera, dysentery and other diseases. It fears 300,000 people might contract dysentery.

The World Health Organisation estimates that up to one-third of the population could already be infected with dysentery.

Unlike a cholera epidemic, which lasts on average six weeks, dysentery would not be 'immediately spectacular', Colonel Merouze said. 'You won't have 25,000 deaths in four weeks but it could take months, even years.'

At Mugunga, where 300,000 people are stranded, including thousands of soldiers of the defeated Hutu government, French military medics are spraying tents and patients with disinfectant. Dr Piperno said it was to kill body lice and did not rule out isolated cases of typhus, which causes fever, delirium, rashes and death.

In Kigali, at his government headquarters in the bullet-pocked Meridien hotel, Mr Twagiramungu said Rwanda did not expect a harvest this year or next and would depend on international food aid. 'We cannot pretend we are going to have a stable country until we have a stable population,' he said. 'It is impossible. And we cannot pretend to have an economy or political situation without a population.'

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Health & Safety Consultant

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic and exciting opport...

Recruitment Genius: Project and Quality Manager

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is an independent ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Sales Executive - OTE £20,625

£14625 - £20625 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This role is for an enthusiasti...

Guru Careers: Financial Controller

£45 - £55k DOE: Guru Careers: A Financial Controller is required to join a suc...

Day In a Page

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Attwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation' over plans to overhaul reverse-chronological timeline

Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation'

Facebook exasperates its users by deciding which posts they can and can’t see. So why has Twitter announced plans to do the same?
Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag - but what else could the fashion house call it?

Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag

The star was shocked by a Peta investigation into the exotic skins trade
10 best waterproof mascaras

Whatever the weather: 10 best waterproof mascaras

We found lash-enhancing beauties that won’t budge no matter what you throw at them
Diego Costa biography: Chelsea striker's route to the top - from those who shared his journey

Diego Costa: I go to war. You come with me...

Chelsea's rampaging striker had to fight his way from a poor city in Brazil to life at the top of the Premier League. A new book speaks to those who shared his journey
Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'
Singapore's domestic workers routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals

Singapore's hidden secret of domestic worker abuse

David Cameron was shown the country's shiniest veneer on his tour. What he didn't see was the army of foreign women who are routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals
Showdown by Shirley Jackson: A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic

Showdown, by Shirley Jackson

A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic
10 best DSLRs

Be sharp! 10 best DSLRs

Up your photography game with a versatile, powerful machine