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
Voices
Lucerne’s Hotel Château Gütsch, one of the lots in our Homeless Veterans appeal charity auction
charity appeal
Sport
Raheem Sterling of Liverpool celebrates scoring the opening goal
footballLIVE: Follow all the latest from tonight's Capital One quarter-finals
Life and Style
A woman walks by a pandal art installation entitled 'Mars Mission' with the figure of an astronaut during the Durga Puja festival in Calcutta, India
techHow we’ll investigate the existence of, and maybe move in with, our alien neighbours
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hughes (James Nesbitt) after his son Olly disappeared on a family holiday in France
tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
people

Jo from Northern Ireland was less than impressed by Russell Brand's attempt to stage a publicity stunt

Arts and Entertainment
Sir Ian McKellen tempts the Cookie Monster
tvSir Ian McKellen joins the Cookie Monster for a lesson on temptation
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride again in Dumb and Dumber To
filmReview: Dumb And Dumber To was a really stupid idea
News
i100
Travel
Tourists bask in the sun beneath the skyscrapers of Dubai
travelBritish embassy uses social media campaign to issue travel advice for festive holiday-makers in UAE
Life and Style
tech
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established media firm based in Surrey is ...

Ashdown Group: Java Developer - Hertfordshire - £47,000 + bonus + benefits

£40000 - £470000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Devel...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive - Nationwide - OTE £65,000

£30000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small technology business ...

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Scandi crush: Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

Th Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum
France's Front National and the fear of a ‘gay lobby’ around Marine Le Pen

Front National fear of ‘gay lobby’

Marine Le Pen appoints Sébastien Chenu as cultural adviser
'Enhanced interrogation techniques?' When language is distorted to hide state crimes

Robert Fisk on the CIA 'torture report'

Once again language is distorted in order to hide US state wrongdoing
Radio 1’s new chart host must placate the Swifties and Azaleans

Radio 1 to mediate between the Swifties and Azaleans

New chart host Clara Amfo must placate pop's fan armies
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'It's life, and not the Forces, that gets you'

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'It's life, and not the Forces, that gets you'

The head of Veterans Aid on how his charity is changing perceptions of ex-servicemen and women in need
Torture: It didn't work then, it doesn't work now

Torture: It didn't work then, it doesn't work now

Its use is always wrong and, despite CIA justifications post 9/11, the information obtained from it is invariably tainted, argues Patrick Cockburn
Rebranding Christmas: More public bodies are refusing to give the festival its name for fear of causing offence

Rebranding Christmas

More public bodies are refusing to give the festival its name for fear of causing offence. They are missing the point, and we all need to grow up