September 16, 2019
 In Articles

United Nations Environment Programme

Access to Water

Democratic Republic of the Congo

Sara Plante

Forest Hills Eastern High School


The World Health Organization and The United Nations International Children’s Fund report that 2.1 billion people lack clean and safely managed water. This water crisis is a critical issue for the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), especially after the First Congo War (nicknamed Africa’s First World War). This war depleted the water supply because of damage to the DRC’s infrastructure. The Water Project, an NGO, depicts the results of this disaster. It leaves a mere forty-two percent of the Congolese with access to safe drinking water in 2019. Only sixty-nine percent of urban areas receive pumped water from the state water utility. Without funding, the state water utility lacks the means to improve deteriorating pipes used for pumping water. Areas that do not receive pumped water are left to find other options, such as streams or ponds, that are potentially polluted with chemicals, waste, or bacteria. For the few privileged citizens with access to bottled water, a liter costs one dollar, but many Congolese earn less than two dollars a day.


The UN News reported that as a participant in the Millenium Development Goals, the DRC was unable to reach goals set by the initiative to halve the number of Congolese without access to safe drinking water by 2015. The UNEP reported on its work in the Congo. In 2017, the UNEP aided the Congo in launching a pioneering initiative called Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) to protect the main water supply of Lukaya, the Lukaya River. It focuses on the empowerment of the community to assess their specific needs and set priorities to create a safe and effective water supply accordingly. However, the protection of the water supply is also affected by private companies, such as farms and quarries. The IWRM encourages discourse between entrepreneurs and the community to decide on joint goals and plans to protect the water supply.


The DRC urges the United Nations to support recommendations made in the UNEP’s Technical Report of the DRC’s water issues. These are water sector governance reform, to help with technical and institutional capacity-building, and to establish a scientific information base to strengthen water resources management. These plans are expected to cost roughly 169 million dollars. However, the cost must be reevaluated after the process has begun. Ideal funding would be accepted from UN agencies, the private sector, development partners, NGOs, and social economy organizations. The DRC also urges that the United Nations helps fund the IWRM so that the initiative can be spread and implemented in both the Kivus and Katanga provinces. Included in this initiative is the goal to plant buffer zones and silt traps along the Lukaya River near the water treatment plant to improve water quality. The DRC proposes that organizations, such as The Water Project, charity: water, and Water4 help fund projects. The DRC does not have the funds necessary to contribute a substantial amount to the improvement of water safety. The Congo requests that the funds from these organizations be spent on replacing decaying water pipes, expanding the reach of pumped water from the state water utility, and drilling wells in rural towns and villages to supply clean, sanitary water.

  • Sara Plante

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