Logo Brunnenbau macht Schule
Straßenszene DR Kongo. Foto: Hartmut HeuserFoto: Hartmut HeuserFoto: Hartmut Heuser

Clean water – a scarce commodity in the Congo

Water is the source of life. In the Congo, it can mean death. Millions of Congolese have a daily water which makes you sick. Flawless drinking water is a privilege of the rich.

Although the Congo is the most water-rich country in Africa, but access to clean water have the fewest. One of the main causes of the high mortality in the Congo is dirty water. About 60 percent of all diseases are directly or indirectly on account of contaminated water. The colorful children’s coffins on Congo’s markets are evidence of one of the highest child mortality rates in the world.

Im Kongo ist die Sterblichkeit aufgrund von kontaminiertem Wasser sehr hoch

In the Congo the mortality rate is extremely high due to contaminated water

The waters are at many places contaminated with harmful germs and parasites, because there is a lack of adequate sanitation. At the same places people wash, bathe, dispose of waste of and draw their drinking water. Especially in the rainy season the contamination takes on alarming proportions. The results are cholera, meningitis and diarrheal diseases. Repeatedly severe cholera epidemics hit the country.

Drinking water – a luxury in Congo

With the civil wars the water supply crisis in Congo has significantly worsened. Many of the old waterworks and wells are destroyed or unusable due to lack of maintenance, lack of money, spare parts and know-how. The state invests little in water infrastructure. The planned reconstruction of the central water supply systems of the Belgian colonial period is initially limited only to urban areas. And because of the high population growth, water scarcity will steadily continue.
Accordig to a report by the UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) only about a quarter of the population has access to drinking water because the people usually have to pay high prices. One cubic meter of potable water costs an average of about two to three dollars. A fortune in view of the per capita average income, which is not more than $ 250 a year.

Hours of walking for dirty water

Typische Kinderarbeit: Wasser holen

Typical child labour: Fetching water

In the county the water situation is much more dramatic than in urban areas: According to the UN, only 17 percent of people can draw potable water there. Public and functional fountain that promote clean water is scarce. Poverty and lack of infrastructure make regular maintenance and start-up of mechanical and diesel-powered fountain almost impossible. The self-dug and unprotected dug wells are often contaminated quickly and pose a high security risk. Therefore the rural population uses the most natural water sources – even if they are contaminated. To gain access to water, for which they do not have to pay, women and children have to cover long distances – up to 20 kilometers per day. The cost is enormous and the everyday lives of women and children are enrmously restricted by that. Instead of going to school, many children carry the partial 25-kilogram canisters of water over miles of trails in their village – and with them the disease-causing germs.