New water network extension in northern Goma to benefit 150,000 displaced persons and host families

The inauguration of a major infrastructure project in the Democratic Republic of the Congo extends the water grid in the city of Goma to provide clean water to those displaced by conflict, and leaves a lasting legacy for the whole community

25 January 2024
Une femme puise de l'eau à une borne, entourée d'enfants
UNICEF/UNI431463/Jospin Benekire
Aline draws water with her daughter from a tap funded by the European Union through UNICEF at the Bushagara internally displaced persons site in eastern DR Congo on August 24, 2023. Aline is the mother of two children and fled the violence in Rutshuru. "With clean water available all the time, we can shower, wash our hands before eating and even afterwards. Even before breastfeeding my child, I have to wash but all this requires water all the time," says Aline.

GOMA, 25 January 2024 – A major extension to the municipal water network in Goma, North Kivu Province, has been inaugurated today, providing water to an estimated 150,000 people in displaced and host communities.

Funded by the European Union through UNICEF, the project replaces expensive water trucking to displacement sites in Bushagara and Kanyaruchinya with a network of large-diameter water pipes, reservoir tanks and water stations.

“For the hundreds of thousands of people who had to leave their homes in Rutshuru since 2022, water is clearly a number one priority to survive,” said Nicolás Berlanga, ambassador of the European Union to the DRC. “We had to find a way to provide this essential commodity in a practical and cost-efficient way. By building this network, we can make sure that displaced people, as well as the host communities, have access to water in the short and the long terms.”

The project includes more than 5 kilometres of underground piping and a pumping room equipped with two pumps with a capacity of 150,000 litres per hour. The water is drawn from the existing municipal water network in the city.

“In a crisis like this, we are looking to how we can bring about lasting change,” said UNICEF Representative in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Grant Leaity. “The water trucking was hard to sustain especially with current levels of funding. The economics mean the new system will offer much greater value for money and will leave an enduring legacy not only for displaced people, but everyone living in this area north of Goma.”

With funding from France, construction work has started to extend the network yet further in Kanyaruchinya, and water points will be established along the main road that leads north out of Goma.

This expansion of the municipal water network to serve the displacement sites as well as the host communities highlights the long-term developmental impact that humanitarian interventions can have – the so-called Humanitarian-Development Nexus approach.

“Conditions in and around the displacement sites are extremely difficult,” said Johan Heffinck, who oversees EU humanitarian programmes in the Great Lakes region. “The reliable supply of clean water will not only improve health and hygiene conditions but also afford people more dignity as they go about their everyday lives.”

DRC is facing its worst cholera outbreak in 6 years – with the east of the country at the epicentre – making the availability of clean water and the improvement of hygiene and sanitation conditions more important than ever. In 2023, the number of cholera cases tripled to 52,506 suspected cases including 470 deaths. More than 40 per cent of those falling ill are children. North Kivu is at the epicentre of the outbreak, accounting for nearly 65 per cent of all cases.

The cholera outbreak is just one component of the complex and protracted crisis in eastern DRC, where more than 15 million children are bearing the brunt of armed conflict, displacement and recurrent disease outbreaks.

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The European Union, together with its Member States, is the world’s largest donor of humanitarian aid. Emergency aid is an expression of European solidarity with people who need it around the world. It aims to save lives, prevent and alleviate human suffering and preserve the integrity and human dignity of people affected by natural disasters and man-made crises. Through the European Commission’s European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations, the European Union helps millions of victims of conflicts and disasters every year.