Democratic Republic of Congo

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CRS in Democratic Republic of Congo

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) boasts a population of approximately 89.5 million people, vast lands and rivers, and abundant mineral resources. The exploitation of the country’s natural resources, including mineral wealth, has sadly more often been the cause of corruption and conflict than broad-based economic growth. As of the 2020 UN Human Development Index, DRC is ranked 175 out of 189 countries and territories, having made modest progress since the post-war period of the 1990s. In recent years, life expectancy has increased from 50 in 2000 to 60 in 2018, mean years of schooling have increased from 7 years in 2000 to 9.7 in 2019, and gross domestic product per capita has increased by $430 from $150 in 2001 to $580 in 2019. The country remains ravaged by the impacts of ongoing conflict linked to armed groups, however, particularly in the east of the country, where over 100 armed militia groups are estimated to operate, including the ISIS-aligned Allied Democratic Forces. As of mid-2020, over 5.5 million people remain displaced by conflict, with crtical need for shelter, food, and non-food items, among others.

The country is also beset with dire infrastructure needs, including abysmal roads in many areas, and insufficient energy, water and sanitation networks for rural and urban communities. Government services remain limited in many sectors, while the predatory regulatory environment and rampant corruption combine to limit enterprise growth. As a result, Congolese communities remain faced with numerous challenges to their health, economic wellbeing, and security. Diseases such as malaria, cholera, measles and tuberculosis have a particular impact on children and the vulnerable. Recurrent Ebola epidemics – the largest of which claimed more than 2,200 lives by its official end in January 2020 (later flare-ups claimed additional lives) – illustrate the scale of the challenge. While improvements have been seen in child malnutrition and stunting, 43% of children are chronically malnourished, which is considered very high by the WHO and UNICEF. Years of under-investment in agriculture mean that yields remain low, impacting the ability of families to lift themselves out of poverty. Youth face the difficulty of a chronic lack of livelihood opportunities, while young women and girls are confronted with challenges due to gender inequality.

CRS DRC continues to address sudden-onset emergency and long-term development issues in collaboration with church partners, government agencies and other humanitarian actors. Core programming areas include transformative health, nutrition, water, sanitation, and hygiene, and agricultural interventions that respond to the country’s diverse challenges. In fiscal year 2020, CRS development and humanitarian assistance reached 3,553,852 individuals in the DRC with a strategic focus on the Kasai region, in central southern DRC. CRS’ work in the DRC is founded on a strong partnership with national and local Church structures. In FY20, CRS collaborated with 13 diocesan Caritas partners, in addition to national Church structures such as Caritas Congo and the National Episcopal Conference of the Congo. By working through Church partners, CRS has been able to serve remote populations despite extremely challenging operational conditions.


People served: 3,553,852

Population: 91,931,000

Size: 905,355 sq mi; slightly less than 1/4 the size of the United States

CRS' History in Democratic Republic of Congo

CRS began operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1961 at the invitation of the country's Catholic Episcopal Conference. Since 1993, the agency has maintained a continuous presence due to permanence of the conflicts, in order to provide timely assistance to populations at risk.

With an initial focus on emergency response, CRS has expanded into development programs with integrated, wide-ranging and gender responsive and transformative health, water security, nutrition, and agricultural interventions.  Whether through direct implementation or through local partners, CRS’ presence across the country ensures our ability to rapidly start-up projects and reach beneficiaries in remote areas.

Today, the DRC is among CRS’ largest country programs, with a FY19 budget of around $24 million. CRS DRC currently has 181 national and 16 international staff working out of the Kinshasa head office and sub-offices in Kananga, Mbuji-Mayi, Goma, Bukavu, Kalemie, Lodja, Kole and Lubumbashi. We count around 25 partner organizations across our program portfolio.