Congo, Democratic Republic of the

A community bores deep for water, in Democratic Republic of the Congo

© UNICEF video
Manual drilling is being used in the village of Binza Météo to transform the health of the entire community. The Democratic Republic of the Congo is one of three countries in the world in which more than 50 per cent of the population do not have access to safe drinking water.


By Yves Willemot

On World Water Day, we celebrate the considerable progress made towards ensuring safe drinking water for all, but we remember the nearly 750 million people who lack this essential service. The Democratic Republic of the Congo is one of three countries in the world in which more than 50 per cent of the population do not have access to safe drinking water. 

The people of Binza Météo watch as eight men bore into the earth with a hand drill. In hours, the residents of this poor, remote area will be inaugurating a new well, and a new milestone on the neighbourhood’s path to good health.

KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of the Congo, 19 March 2015 – Nothing escapes the eye of Papy Bakambu. Papy closely monitors his workers as they drill a well in Binza Météo, a poor area in the suburbs of Kinshasa.

© UNICEF Democratic Republic of the Congo/2015
A team of workers drill a borehole, using a technique developed in Chad. This cost-effective technology has brought water to remote, vulnerable areas of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

What makes Papy’s project notable is that the well is being drilled by hand, using a technique developed in Chad. UNICEF and its partners have adapted it for wide use here, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The work is hard. Two teams of four men alternate every 10 minutes, which leaves just enough time for their muscles to have a little rest. In just a few hours, the well has reached a depth of 30 metres. Papy announces, “Still 10 or so metres to do, then we will have reached the groundwater table, where we are going to find water of perfect quality.”

A community answers the call

Papy is the Centre of Action for the Development of Disadvantaged Communities (CADECOD) coordinator. As he watches the work, so, too, do the local residents, with interest. They did, after all, respond to the government’s and UNICEF’s call to sign up for the Healthy Villages programme.

In just one year, they have managed to achieve each of the programme’s seven stages. The milestones include the benefits of the project at hand – guaranteeing that at least 80 per cent of residents of the district have access to drinking water.

What are the other stages to ensuring good health? “The programme also includes access to toilets, treatment of household waste, upkeep of cleanliness in the area and the putting in place of a management committee for the programme run by the neighbourhood residents, themselves,” explains Junie Flégère, who is part of the UNICEF Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) programme.

Binza Météo is in good company. Across the country, more than 4,000 villages have been declared healthy since 2009, which means access to drinking water for more than three million people. Ambitions go much further. By 2017, the Congolese government and UNICEF plan to provide drinking water to four million people.

© UNICEF Democratic Republic of the Congo/2015
More than half of the population of the country do not have access to improved drinking water. The Healthy Villages programme addresses that urgent need, and more.

A simple, savvy solution

Thanks to this technique of manual drilling, 80 pumps have been installed in poor districts of Kinshasa since 2009.

Hand drilling has its advantages. For example, Papy explains, hand drilling is much cheaper than mechanized drilling. “For the same price, we can install four times more pumps and supply 500 people,” he calculates.

Reaching remote, vulnerable areas is also a plus to the technique. “Manual drilling is, most importantly, sometimes the only technique possible in the most inaccessible places where machines cannot go,” he says. In many poor districts of Kinshasa, where even a motorbike passes with difficulty, a truck with a mechanical drill cannot be used.

A promising future

The rate of access of the Congolese population to drinking water remains low, but Healthy Villages is on the way to creating real change. The government and UNICEF have high ambitions to enable an ever-growing number of residents to drink safe water and to live in a clean environment.

In the meantime, the people of Binza Météo can look forward to the inauguration of the grand pump. The drilling will be finished this evening. All that will be left to do is to install the pipework and finalize the well by installing the pump. The water quality will be checked one last time before the villagers can drink it.

Papy isn’t worried. “The water quality will be good,” he says. “We have dug down deep enough.”



UNICEF Photography: Water, sanitation & hygiene

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