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A cholera epidemic in the Democratic Republic of Congo has claimed 857 lives since the start of the year, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said Wednesday.

Health authorities have so far recorded 25 170 cases, occurring in 21 out of the country’s 26 provinces, the WHO’s office in the DRC said.

The provinces of East Kasai and Lomami, in the centre of the country, and South Kivu, Tanganyika and Upper Katanga in the east, are those most affected.

Last year, the country had 55 000 cases of cholera, resulting in 1 190 fatalities.

Cholera is a highly contagious bacterial infection, which can kill within hours if left untreated. It thrives in conditions of poor sanitation and contaminated water or food.

The DRC is also battling an outbreak of Ebola in two eastern provinces, North Kivu and Ituri, that has killed 212 people since August.

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