Water in the DRC
by Rebecca Shore
In 1998, the Democratic Republic of Congo became part of what some people called Africa’s First World War, in a conflict between seven African nations. There are many reasons why the war broke out, including conflicts over minerals, water, and food. After the war, water became an increasingly sparse resource due to the collapse of the DRC’s infrastructure during the fighting. Although the DRC use to be one of the wettest nations in Africa, today the majority of rural Congolese do not have access to sanitary water because of the lack of infrastructure. In fact a study carried out by the IRC found that since the war, most Congolese have not died from violence, but rather from malaria, diarrhea, and malnutrition, all problems associated with the lack of water (Global Issues).
In the DRC, the state water utility does not have the ability to improve its water pumping system, because they lack the funds to undertake the project. Instead, they continue to pump water to needy areas through rusty, decaying pipes. According to the IRIN, only about 69 percent of the urban areas of the DRC receive water from the state water utility (IRIN News). This means that there are a significant amount of citizens not receiving water to their towns and villages, resulting in the locals having to find other options to satisfy their need for water.
In a town in the northwestern district of the DRC, called Ewo, most locals are only able to get water from local streams and ponds – there are no water pipes coming in from the state water utility. One local man, named Romuald Onanga, who gets his water from those streams said, “We've become used to drinking spring water because it is natural. It is not often associated with chemicals” (IRIN News). However, what Onanga and others do not realize is that many of the streams they get their water from are contaminated with waste, chemicals, or bacteria, but it is their only source of water so they have no other choice but to drink unsafe water.
For the privileged Congolese, they have the ability to buy imported bottled water, but at a very steep price. One liter bottle of water costs about $1, which is extremely cheap to Americans, but for many Congolese who make less than $2 a day, it is an impossible luxury. As a result, those who do not have money do not have access to clean water.
In the next four years, the government and outside humanitarian organizations hope to alleviate the water crisis in the DRC. According to the minister of energy and water resources, the government is committed to providing clean water to all districts in the country, hoping to provide clean water to 75 percent of the country by 2015. In the end the DRC, as well as other African nations, is greatly in need of outside help to better its water system.