KINSHASA — Located in Central Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo is a country that has a brutal history of war, violence and political unrest. Millions of people live in extreme poverty, and do not have access to clean drinking water. Here are 3 important facts about water quality in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
1. Weak Infrastructure
Fifty million people, or 75 percent, of the entire population lack access to safe drinking water, despite the fact that the country holds over half of the continent of Africa’s water reserves. While resources are available, the country has a weak infrastructure, a lack of effective policies, and limited paved roads and electricity, which limits their ability to utilize clean water sources.
2. Price and Time
There are few sources of clean water, particularly in more rural areas; yet, many water pumps cost villagers a monthly maintenance fee. Although the cost is inexpensive, many individuals are unable to pay. Not only is cost a factor, but time is as well — at many water pumps, it takes individuals up to two hours to get clean water. The price coupled with how long the process takes discourages individuals, and leads them to the more inexpensive and convenient unsafe water sources instead.
3. Heightened risk of disease and illness
Due to the price and sometimes distance of clean water sources from villages, many individuals choose to drink from unsafe water sources. This in turn, places individuals, particularly children at risk for disease and illness. The poor water quality in the Democratic Republic of Congo, has led to the country having one of the highest child mortality rates in the world. A child in a rural Congolese village is four times more likely to drink contaminated water than someone living in a town or city; there’s also more than two million children under five are frequently sick with diarrhea.
While poor water quality in the Democratic Republic of Congo proves to be a serious issue, the number of people who have access to clean water has risen by over 3 percent in the last several decades. The government of the DRC has also managed to reverse the negative trend of poor water quality and water coverage since peace was achieved in 2003, and many experts think this effort should be applauded.
Infrastructure improvements within the government coupled with investments to improve the water quality can make all the difference for the livelihood and wellbeing of millions of Congolese.
-Sarah Jane Fraser