Across Eastern DRC, these yellow cans are the symbol of a vital good that is akin to a luxury for millions of Congolese: drinkable water. On any given day from Ituri to Bukama, in Haut-Katanga Province, young girls and boys can be seen carrying these cans -- which weigh 20 kilos when full -- back home for various household needs. It is estimated that only 16 per cent of people living in the capital, Kinshasa, have access to clean water. In Bukama, 2,000 km southeast of Kinshasa, deep in the country, many have never seen a single drop of water from a tap. Photo: OCHA/J-L. Mbalivoto
In Bukama, it is common to see such holes in the ground. They are wells, the only source of water. This water, brown in color, is used for everything: cooking, washing clothes and dishes, taking showers, and so on. Cholera, a water-borne disease, has been able to flourish in recent years due to the lack of clean water. Since 2012, the four southeastern provinces, which used to make up Katanga, have registered over 40,000 cholera cases. Photo: OCHA/J-L. Mbalivoto
When families are not drilling their own wells, they use the affluents, rivers and streams from the Congo river to meet their water needs. The mythic Congo river, which runs the entire length of the country, is one of the main vectors of the disease. In Bukama, the Lualaba's River is a multi-purpose river. Since the beginning of the year, the Bukama area has registered over 250 cases of cholera. Heavy rains that have been pouring on the area will likely make things worse. Photo: OCHA/J-L. Mbalivoto
A bed at a cholera treatment center in Lubumbashi. In 2015, 81 people died of cholera in Haut-Katanga, Haut-Lomami, Lualaba and Tanganyika provinces -- formerly known as Katanga. UN agencies, NGOs and the Government have joined forces to tackle this issue but much more needs to be done as the disease has become endemic and both short-term and long-term investments are required to stem the disease. Photo: OCHA/J-L. Mbalivoto.
Donatien Mushizi works for the Red Cross, one of hundreds of health professional whose job is to prevent the spread of cholera. Equipped with a variety of communication tools and techniques, fluent in a number of the local languages, they go door-to-door to inform and sensitize communities. However, influential religious leaders, deeply-entrenched local beliefs and widespread illiteracy, as well as generalized poverty all contribute in slowing sensitization efforts on the disease. Photo: OCHA DRC/J-L. Mbalivoto.
When teams are not going door-to-door, they are hitting public places like markets. UN agencies such as UNICEF and the World Health Organization and numerous national and international NGOs have been leading efforts against the disease. Water and health experts estimate that US$ 600,000 is urgently needed for the response. Photo: OCHA/J-L. Mbalivoto.
Water pumps are an effective solution and are therefore much needed in the four southeastern provinces. But they are costly and the maintenance of these pumps lies with the communities, meaning that many of these pumps only last a few months. Some families have to walk for many hours to reach the nearest pump. Photo: OCHA/J-L. Mbalivoto.
The National Service for Rural Hydraulics, a Government programme, has been doing its best to provide clean water to millions of people living in far-flung places. The national water company, Regideso, has been struggling for decades to provide water, even in urban centers such as Kinshasa, Lubumbashi and Goma. In many areas, its equipment dates back to the colonial era. According to some estimates, the national water company would need millions of dollars to be fully operational. Photo: OCHA/J-L. Mbalivoto.
The family living in this house is one of the luckier ones. The masked man, carrying some 10 kilos of anti-cholera liquid, will spray walls, rooms and kitchen areas, to prevent the cholera germ from spreading. Unfortunately, thousands of families will not see a single drop of this life-saving spray because there aren't enough well-trained teams to cover the entire country. After the spraying is done, families are still required to respect basic hygiene principles such as washing food, and hands on a regular basis to prevent the spead of the disease. But again, clean water is often lacking. Photo: OCHA/J-L. Mbalivoto.
The Pooled-Fund, a Kinshasa-based funding mechanism created in 2006, has funded dozens of water, health and sanitation projects using money from donors including the European Union, the UK, the US, Sweden and many others. While humanitarian actors have been focusing on life-saving efforts, winning the battle against cholera will require funding and a coherent and hollistic approach, hand-in-hand with the Government and development actors. The Congolese government has adopted a three-year national plan against cholera, though its implementation remains uncertain due to lack of sufficient funding. Photo: OCHA/J-L. Mbalivoto.
15 Mar 2016