DRC-Water Everywhere But Not A Drop To Drink



Water Everywhere But Not A Drop To Drink

Goma, a city in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, sits by one of the world's largest freshwater reservoirs and has some of Africa's heaviest annual rainfall, yet it is a thirsty place.

Most of the city's one million residents, living close to the shores of Lake Kivu, have to struggle every day to fetch water home.

From daybreak, an endless stream of cyclists heads to the lake and back, filling battered containers with as much water as they can carry.

In a makeshift shelter, health worker Fedeline Kabuhu tries to ensure that no container leaves without a dose of chlorine, which she injects with a syringe to make sure the water residents collect is potable.

"The people drink this water. They do everything with it," the 46-year-old French charity worker said.

A single cyclist can transport up to 120 litres (about 250 pints) to be sold on to private water stores. At a rate of 10 trips to the lake each day, the carriers can expect to earn up to $10 (seven euros) between dawn and dusk.

But by the end of one morning it started to rain and water collector Lambert Biriko decided to call it a day.

"Today is ruined," he said, adding that residents would gather run-off rain water instead and "won't buy anything from us".

Located on the border with Rwanda, Goma is the capital of DR Congo's North Kivu province, which has been wracked by bloody unrest for more than 20 years, displacing scores of thousands of people.

In those two decades, the city's population has exploded, swelled by an influx of refugees from neighboring Rwanda and Burundi as well as local Congolese seeking shelter from marauding armed bands.

As in many other parts of DR Congo -- the world's least developed country according to the United Nations -- the people of Goma have learned to fend for themselves after decades of government neglect.

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The lack of basic infrastructure has given rise to the Lucha (Fight for Change) protest movement. A shortage of water, electricity and opportunities for work shows "a problem of governance" and "a lack of seriousness", according to Micheline Mwendike, a member of the apolitical body.

Alongside other organizations, she said, Lucha gathered 3,500 signatures at the end of May for a petition demanding that provincial governor Julien Paluku commit to connecting Goma to the water supply and publish "a plan to bring water to the entire city".

Backed by regional segments of the political opposition, Lucha is gaining momentum as it accuses authorities of using the insecurity as an excuse for inaction.

'Not normal'

The movement stages regular protests and has harnessed the power of social media, using Facebook and the Twitter hashtag #GomaNeedsWater.

Paluku did not respond to repeated requests for comment from AFP.

Deogratias Kizibisha, the North Kivu director of public water distribution firm Regideso, said that 45 percent of Goma residents are connected to the central supply. Lucha claims the real rate is closer to 20 percent.

Jean-Pierre Kambere is a nurse in Birere, Goma's poorest slum.

"Adding chlorine is not enough" to make water gathered from Lake Kivu safe to drink, he said.

"Every week patients come to us with diarrhoea or fever" caused by drinking polluted water, Kambere added.

Not far from the health centre, Joelle, a frail woman of 20, crouched at a public tap, bent double under the weight of the container strapped to her back with a scarf.

"It's not normal to live like this," she said. "The authorities need to provide water to every home."

[AFP]

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Sometimes words escape me in reading articles and papers regarding the reality of the humanitarian crises we face in the 21st Century. We claim to be so progressed, so advanced, so technologically savvy with our shiny cell phones, tablets and other "gadgets." Yet, look how people are still living in our world. NO basic sanitation. NO running water. Disease, poverty, war, corruption. This is no way for any human to have to live in a world where we claim to be so "progressed." Is progress merely something that has a dollar amount attached to it? What is humanity worth anymore?

It is said that the Governor here has a palace on the lake and the rich have restricted access to it. How much do you want to bet he has clean running water? Of course, the rich can have anything they wish in our "progressed" society. The best water, the best food, the best housing, the best education... Sorry, but this is not civilization to me. Incivility to humans is not part of any civilization that is advanced and you are not worth more because you possess more gold. It was not too long ago that cities like London did not even have water and sanitation systems. Much of the industrialized world does today. So, if we could do it in those places why can't it be done here? Even Ancient Rome Had aqueducts!

The situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo is dire. Noted as the least developed country in the world with an ongoing war that has killed millions once again ignored by Western media for the most part, people live daily with diseased water and a lack of access. Political corruption that diverts billions in aid money with NGO efforts not nearly enough. What to do? This is the question of the century with an answer so obvious yet so elusive.

Therefore, putting this technology to good use: #GomaNeedsWater. This may not do as much as we would hope but I'm using this hashtag on Twitter. If you are on Twitter, please use it as well. Speak out for humans on this planet who are not afforded the common decency of clean running water. Speak up. Care. Get angry. Just do something! I truly weep for a world where progress is determined by the amount of palaces you own on the lake. If WE do not care all is lost. The people of the DRC deserve better. They deserve a functioning government that WORKS. They deserve like all of us CLEAN RUNNING WATER. #GOMANEEDSWATER. Need I say more?

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NGOs are all the people have and they cannot do it alone.

Also see:

To understand the suffering you must understand the history. This is an excellent article.

DR Congo: The Politics Of Suffering

"Risk averse" aid system fails those most in need - MSF

Another excellent assessment and article by Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) regarding aid. For all of the talk the UN does where are they in the truly needy parts of our world? Why do so many millions as in the DRC still suffer?

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