Douce Namwezi N’ibamba

In Congo, Millions for Water Projects, but not a Drop to Drink

With the break of dawn Mapendo Furaha, a 37-year-old mother of six, sets off on a 5-kilometer trek to fetch the family's drinking water for the day.

Furaha lives in Bukavu, the provincial capital of South Kivu, in eastern Congo, but her impoverished neighborhood has no potable water. Residents there have dug their own well, and each day Furaha and her children walk nearly two hours round-trip to fetch 30 liters of dirty water for cooking, cleaning, and drinking.

About 70 percent of Bukavu's people lack access to clean drinking water, according to the national water utility, and the city has been hit by outbreaks of cholera. Bukavu's water board blames the crisis on a population boom, from 350,000 residents in 1990 to nearly 1 million now.

In 2014 and 2015, donors gave more than $5 million to improve the population's access to clean drinking water, but there has been no lasting solution. This year, donors are expected to pour another $3 million into water projects in South Kivu.

The issue of clean drinking water in many African countries has not been ignored in the media, but those stories usually focus on the hardships or dangers of getting to a drinking-water source. I want to investigate why, after a decade of work and tens of millions of dollars – and even in areas where conflict has not held back other infrastructure projects – clean water remains so scarce in South Kivu.

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