The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has experienced disastrous civil wars over the past decade, claiming the lives of millions. The effects of the conflict are ongoing and the United Nations estimates that 1,200 people currently die each day in the DRC due to re-lated violence, disease, and malnutrition. Approximately 80% of the population in eastern DRC does not have access to potable water – a situation which has clear consequences for long-term health, particularly for children.
Through the generosity of Procter and Gamble’s Children’s Safe Drinking Water pro-gram, International Medical Corps instituted a water sanitization and hygiene sensitization campaign in three affected health zones in eastern DRC: Chambu-cha/Hombo, Kalonge, and Bunyakiri. By improving access to safe drinking water, International Medical Corps has reduced the incidence of water-borne illnesses among community members.
- Three-quarters of participants now use the protected water source either by itself or in conjunction with river and rainwater collection;
- After completion of the project, an average of 87% of households could store twenty liters of water or more;
- By the end of the project, 95% of households knew about using products (such as PUR) to sanitize their water;
- Households washing their hands before and after meals increased from an average of 37% to an average of 91%;
- An impressive 85% of households can now name two ways to prevent diarrhea; and
- Incidence of diarrhea fell significantly, from 78% to 13% in Kalonge, 74% to 13% in Chambucha/Hombo, and 56% to 16% in Bunyakiri.
Despite the challenging security situation in eastern DRC, International Medical Corps has successfully demonstrated that positive improvements in health and education can still be achieved. International Medical Corps emphasizes self-reliance as an essential component in building the long-term health of communities. This project is no exception. Local community health workers, teachers, and elders are now equipped to train others to practice good hygiene and properly sanitize their water. Children, the primary gatherers of water for the family, are empowered to directly impact the health of their entire family. The effects of this grant will continue to improve the health of many families for years to come.