Despite having the largest freshwater resources in Africa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has long faced significant challenges in maintaining and furnishing potable drinking water to its citizens. More than 50 million Congolese face the daily trial of acquiring clean water, due to issues ranging from inadequate infrastructure to poor sanitation.
According to a 2015 UNICEF and World Health Organization study, almost 700 million people worldwide did not have access to clean drinking water — most of them in sub-Saharan Africa.
Much of this water quality problem falls within the spectrum of sanitation. The DRC’s rate of urban expanse far outstrips its ability to furnish infrastructure that would deliver clean drinking water to those living in developing areas. In more rural communities, however, the opposite is true — water-furnishing infrastructure is almost non-existent, which puts these Congolese at a higher risk of consuming contaminated drinking water.
Many living in these areas use water from local streams and rivers, unaware that the same water source has been contaminated upstream with chemicals, bacteria and parasites. The people of the DRC share the experience of 2.4 billion people worldwide who do not have access to sanitary toilets.
However, many communities have addressed the water quality problem head-on, developing resourceful solutions to provide this necessity. Hand-drilled wells, for instance, are a much cheaper (although laborious) method of accessing fresh water in rural Congolese villages. UNICEF, via its Water, Sanitation and Hygiene program (WASH), has been working tirelessly with the Congolese government to spread these solutions. They aspire to provide clean water to 4 million people by the end of 2017.
Large-scale efforts have positively impacted the water quality in the DRC. The U.N.’s Environment Program (UNEP) helped to complete a community-led catchment management project on the Lukaya River basin in 2016. These projects work with the natural processes of the local ecosystem, providing drinking water to 400,000 people living in the Congolese capital of Kinshasa.
Despite a history of instability and conflict, the people of the DRC have made great strides in improving their water quality. Organizations such as UNICEF and UNEP bring great support to this cause, and if global interest continues, general health and welfare in these areas will drastically improve as well.
– Emily Marshall