The facts about poverty in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) reveal that poverty in the country is a result of the combination of conflict spilling over from neighboring African nations and an embedded culture of governmental corruption.
The facts about poverty in the Democratic Republic of the Congo will address the underlying causes and how the DRC has been able to improve impoverished conditions in recent years.
Top 10 Facts about Poverty in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
- The DRC has a population of approximately 77 million people out of which 80 percent live in extreme poverty. Internationally, the DRC is ranked medium in terms of human development. Indicators of human development measure a population’s well-being, i.e. its life expectancy, infant/maternal mortality, child mortality, malnutrition and mortality associated with diseases such as malaria.
- The well-being of a population is disproportionate: it is far better in urban areas since wealth determines access to sanitation and medical services. Therefore, the poor in rural areas are most affected by the consequences of poverty.
- Poverty is a byproduct of political conflict during the 1990s, i.e. the DRC’s involvement in African War, a political/ethnic conflict from neighboring Rwanda in 1994. The country has seen a dramatic transformation from a state engulfed in brutal genocidal violence to a relatively stable post-conflict society. One-third of the DRC’s population has been internally displaced as a result of the country’s long history of political instability and violence. War-torn communities have left approximately 4 million children as orphans or homeless.
- Contrary to popular belief, poverty and development are linked. As the African nations’ economies develop, the population also increases steadily. The flip side to this is that malnutrition and new diseases are spreading as the existing system of governance is not equipped to keep up with the uptick in population.
- The DRC transitioned from a Marxist to Free Market economy, which has relied heavily on wealth from the mining industry. Upon the transition, the new economy has not been managed appropriately as wealth is spent lavishly on patronage for government officials instead of humanitarian efforts. It is for this reason that the DRC has been subjected to numerous the military coups and ceaseless internal conflict.
- The civil war has had a huge impact on health and poverty in the DRC by destroying infrastructure that communities relied on for clean water and sanitation. It has contributed to the spread of disease. Waterborne diseases such as diarrhea, cholera and malaria are the most common and deadly. Three percent of those who contract cholera die due to inadequate treatment. Less than one-fourth of the DRC’s population has access to clean drinking water and sanitation services. It has a 45 percent inoculation rate of malaria that has resulted from a lack of access to cleaning drinking water and poor nutrition. Approximately two out of every five deaths in the DRC is caused by malaria.
- The DRC’s governmental structure has had a tumultuous relationship with their population, engaging in genocidal violence during internal conflict, and an unstable kleptocratic government system post-conflict. Historically, the DRC functions under a government that spends on personal relations to buy popular support rather than on social programs that would earn support.
- The people of the DRC look to the international community and nonprofits for assistance. La Nouvelle Esperance (The New Hope) program offered tremendous assistance in the Millennium Declaration, which is based on human development and humanitarian assistance. It also has specific goals to eliminate poverty altogether using a strategy that fosters national and international stability. The Global Partnership plays an integral role in improving education in the DRC, increasing access to education by providing $20 million in learning materials and renovating 728 classrooms as well as establishing learning centers. Other notable contributions have come from UNICEF and USAID.
- There are significant assistance programs from transnational banks such as The World Bank and African Bank. African Bank’s program helps reduce infant and maternal mortality rates through programs which distribute medical supplies. The World Bank’s program aims to increase standards of living through sanitation, energy and various accessible social services. It has 24 projects and 57 trust funds as well as $2.51 billion in commitments to eradicate extreme poverty with only 42 percent of its total resources used so far. 63 percent of these resources are to be spread across various sectors including road and transportation infrastructure, energy, water and urban development. The World Bank has also funded medical projects assisting the DRC in the successful eradication of poliomyelitis. There is a great improvement to be noted as its strategy has shifted from emergency assistance programs to sustainable growth strategies.
- With the help of the U.N. and Great Britain, the DRC has successfully demobilized and improved health and education opportunities. The British government has proven to be a world leader in combating global poverty. Britain’s Department of International Development has developed an initiative that aims to support long-term programs that tackle the underlying issues of poverty by ensuring primary education, gender equality, a reduction in child and mother death rates as well as environmental protection. Other notable contributions have come from the French and Belgian governments through the WBG, fostering public management of resources as well as public administrative support.
The facts about poverty in the Democratic Republic of the Congo provide an understanding of not only the history and effects of poverty in the country but also working solutions to address the issue.
– Kimberly Keysa