Addressing crisis and acknowledging progress
The Borgen Project is a nonprofit aiming to ‘downsize poverty’ by informing readers of global issues and mobilizing them to contact their congressional leaders in support of poverty-reduction legislation. After extensive research regarding the political, economic, and social trends of the Democratic Republic of Congo, I wrote this blog post not only to portray the struggles many Congolese people face, but also to communicate the positive changes occurring throughout the country
The Borgen Project Blog, 2018
Despite its abundance of ever-valuable natural resources, including copper and oil, as well as a picturesque landscape which once drew wealthy tourists from around the world, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has been plagued by political instability, leaving the Congolese people struggling to survive. Here are the top ten facts about living conditions in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
1. Since acquiring the presidency following his father’s assassination in 2001, Joseph Kabila has followed the recent trend accumulating wealth for himself and his constituents while ignoring the desperation the majority of his country endures. Nearly 50 percent of the DRC’s wealth belongs to the top 20 percent of its citizens while the bottom 20 percent has only 5-6 percent of the wealth.
2. Between 60-65 percent of people living in the DRC fall below the poverty line. This number has been decreasing in recent years, however, it still places the country near the very bottom of the list of wealthy nations.
3. While the DRC has been trending towards urbanization in recent decades, more than 60 percent of the Congolese people still reside in small, tribal, hunter-gatherer communities which have been a regular target by armed rebel militias. Raids by these militias have forced residents from their homes for fear of their lives, leaving many to seek refuge in displacement camps, such as the Mugunga III camp in the North Kivu province whose lack of security has made it a target for militias to raid in search of resources.
4. The DRC has one of the highest birthrates in the world with an average of 6.6 children per mother, which has led to an increasing shortage of food. Roughly 70 percent of the Congolese people lack adequate access to food and 23 percent of children are malnourished.
5. Similarly, the infant mortality rate in the DRC is one of the highest in the world due to a lack of accessibility to hospitals and doctors. Because so many people are without healthcare, the infants who do survive often go unvaccinated until later in life. However, in recent years, these trends have shown improvement with the infant mortality rate dropping from 15 percent to 10 percent and vaccination rates increasing from 31 percent to 45 percent for children under 24 months of age
6. Despite Kabila’s efforts to block foreign aid to the DRC for fears it will deter investors from putting money into his country’s industries, the UN has not slowed down in its effort to provide support. In April of 2018, the UN held a donor conference with the goal of raising 1.7 billion dollars to provide food, shelter and medical attention to the Congolese people.
7. In October of 2017, the United Nations placed the DRC on its Level 3 emergency list, the highest recognition of crisis, due to unacceptable living conditions the roughly 4.5 million Congolese people have had to endure.
8. Despite malaria being one of the DRC’s most prominent health crises, constituting nearly 20 of deaths for children under five years of age, groups such as the World Health Organization are working to promote prevention, education and treatment to combat malaria and other diseases.
9. Life expectancy in the DRC is 48 years for men and 52 for women. Comparatively, life expectancy in the U.S. is 76 years for men and 81 for women. The top causes for death include treatable conditions such as malaria, respiratory infection and diarrheal diseases.
10. Due to increasing pressure from the Congolese people, foreign aid groups and leaders of other countries threatening sanctions against the DRC, the Congolese government has increased its health budget by nearly five percent from 2011 to 2015.
Despite these top ten facts about living conditions in the Democratic Republic of Congo revealing a history plagued by political corruption, disease, and a lack of accessibility to basic resources, the DRC currently finds itself in a transitional period which could begin to reverse much of the damage that has been done. Kabila announced in August 2018 that he will no longer seek reelection and will relinquish his presidency at the close of his term. This opens the door for a leader whose intentions lie not in personal gain, but rather in rebuilding the DRC’s economy, providing health care and access to basic resources to the people, and restoring the country to a position of growth and stability