DR Congo emergency response brings long-term water infrastructure to northern Goma
EU Humanitarian Aid
At the entrance to Bushagara displaced persons camp, on the outskirts of Goma in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), a water truck pumps out its precious cargo into a large reservoir that stores water for 4,000 households.
200 metres away, mother of five, Frediana Ziraje, waits patiently in line for her turn at the water taps.
“We need water to prepare food, so when there’s a shortage, the family can’t eat,’’ she says. “Things are good at the site – people are living in harmony. But we are just waiting for the war to finish so we can go home.”
Connecting to the water grid
The camp is about to receive a massive upgrade to the water infrastructure due to be completed in September 2023. Instead of the current water trucking to the site – costing $43,000 every month – the camp will be connected to the municipal water grid; no mean feat in a bone-dry area of the city covered in volcanic rock without any nearby connection to the mains supply.
From this month onwards, the camp reservoirs will be supplied directly from the local water distribution network thanks to 5 kilometres of large-scale piping and two giant pumps each with a capacity of 150,000 litres per hour, supported through UNICEF by EU Humanitarian Aid. The nearby displacement site at Kanyaruchinya as well as the community will also benefit thanks to two 95,000-litre water reservoirs, and – with funding from France - a soon to be installed water distribution network with distribution posts along the main road. In total an estimated 150,000 people will be served.
“In a crisis like this, we are looking to how we can bring about lasting change,” said UNICEF Representative in DRC, Grant Leaity. “The water trucking was hard to sustain especially with current levels of funding. The economics will mean the new system will offer much greater value for money, and will leave a lasting legacy not only for displaced people, but everyone living in this area north 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.
Already UNICEF has built two large reservoirs holding 70,000 litres of water each at a high point above the camp from which water will flow to the 6,000 households that will eventually live here. There are 10 water stations in the camp with six taps each, and 240 latrines and 120 showers built through a partnership with NGO YME Grands Lacs, supported by the UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund. A similar number of latrines and showers will be built soon as the camp is extended.
With eastern DRC at the centre of the country’s worst cholera outbreak since 2017, accessing clean water, sanitation and hygiene has become more important than ever. Already more than 8,000 children have been infected in North Kivu during first seven months of this year, over six times as many cases as in all of 2022.
The DRC is facing one of the world’s most complex and protracted crises. More than 15 million children are bearing the brunt of an escalation in armed conflict and recurrent disease outbreaks. Some 1.5 million people have been displaced since October 2022 in eastern DRC, following the upsurge of largescale violence that humanitarians hoped was a thing of the past.