Why treatment centres failed to prevent cholera deaths among Rwandan refugees in Goma, Zaire

Lancet. 1995 Feb 11;345(8946):359-61. doi: 10.1016/s0140-6736(95)90344-5.


In July, 1994, in one of the worst cholera outbreaks in recent times, an estimated 12,000 Rwandan refugees died in Goma in eastern Zaire. The Vibrio cholerae strains were resistant to tetracycline and doxycycline, the commonly used drugs for cholera treatment. Despite the efforts of international organisations, which provided medical relief by establishing treatment centres in Goma, mortality from the disease was much higher than expected. In the area of Muganga camp, which had the largest concentration of refugees and where most of the medical aid organisations were active, the highest reported case-fatality ratio for a single day was 48%. The slow rate of rehydration, inadequate use of oral rehydration therapy, use of inappropriate intravenous fluids, and inadequate experience of health workers in management of severe cholera are thought to be some of the factors associated with the failure to prevent so many deaths during the epidemic. In one of the temporary treatment centres with the worst case-fatality record, our team showed that improvement of these factors could increase the odds of survival of cholera patients even in a disaster setting.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Ambulatory Care Facilities*
  • Cholera / mortality*
  • Cholera / therapy
  • Clinical Competence
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo / epidemiology
  • Disasters*
  • Doxycycline / pharmacology
  • Drug Resistance, Microbial
  • Fluid Therapy / standards
  • Health Personnel / standards
  • Humans
  • International Agencies
  • Refugees*
  • Relief Work
  • Rwanda / ethnology
  • Tetracycline / pharmacology
  • Vibrio cholerae / drug effects


  • Tetracycline
  • Doxycycline