Smart investments needed to tackle drinking water crisis in DR Congo
Kinshasa/Nairobi, 22 March 2011 - The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) possesses over half of Africa's water reserves, yet 74 percent of its population - or approximately 51 million people - lack access to safe drinking water, according to a new study by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
The country's troubled legacy of conflict, environmental degradation, rapid urbanization and under-investment in water infrastructure has seriously affected the availability of drinking water in DRC, although there are positive signs of recovery.
The findings of UNEP's technical report into the DRC's acute drinking water crisis and recommended solutions were presented at a World Water Day event in the country's capital, Kinshasa.
UNEP was among several participants in the event staged by the National Water and Sanitation Committee, which brought together government representatives, development partners, financial institutions, NGOs and researchers to discuss steps to address the DRC's water challenges.
Speaking at the forum, UNEP's DRC Programme Manager Hassan Partow said the new UNEP study confirmed that despite recent progress, including water sector reforms, the scale of the challenge meant the DRC simply could not meet its water targets under the United Nations-set Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of reducing by half the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water by 2015. Moreover, to meet national development goals, which are significantly below the MDG water target, the country faces the enormous challenge of supplying an additional 20.3 million people with safe drinking water by 2015.
"Since peace was brokered in 2003, the government has gradually managed to reverse the negative trend in water coverage that has plagued the DRC since its period of conflict and turmoil," said Mr Partow. "This represents an important achievement which should be applauded."
"However, the stark reality is that the DRC has one of the fastest urbanisation growth rates in the world and this is not being matched with adequate water and sanitation service delivery," he added.