Access to Clean Water Improves Lives in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
Ever since she was a young girl, Henriette Kalubi would walk more than 20 minutes on a narrow, uneven dirt path to help her mother and sisters fetch water at the nearby river. Their village, Tshilamba, located in the Kasansa Health Zone in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Kasai Oriental province, did not have any other water sources. Often, they would make this trip multiple times a day, with the return trip taking up to 40 minutes due to the heavy containers they carried on their heads.
Families gather near the river in Tshilamba village in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Photo by Michael Castofas for CRS
Henriette and her family, like others in the community, relied on river water for cooking and drinking, washing clothes and dishes, cleaning their home and bathing. But the river was dirty, and the community suffered from waterborne diseases like cholera.
Then, in August 2020, a clean water source pump was installed by Catholic Relief Services in Tshilamba, as part of the Budikadidi project, thanks to funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance. The pump is centrally located, less than five minutes from most families’ homes. Water samples are regularly tested to ensure that it is safe to drink. It is one of 252 water sources installed by CRS across three health zones targeted by the project.
“It is very clean,” Henriette says. “It is very good water. Much better than the water that comes from the river. And so much less tiresome.”
Henriette Kalubi now has access to clean water thanks to a pump installed by CRS as part of the Budikadidi project in the Democratic Republic of the Congo .
Photo by Michael Castofas for CRS
To ensure the longevity of the pump, Budikadidi helped the community create a water management committee to oversee maintenance. Community members must contribute a small fee to the maintenance fund for each bucket pumped. Their contributions are saved for future repairs.
“This is very important, because if something happens, how can we pay for it?” says Justin Tshisabi, the pump overseer. “We explained from the start the benefits of using this pump and how, if we wanted clean, healthy water, we must pay a very small sum to ensure it does not become unusable and will allow us to take very good care of it.”
Bernadette Mbela collects water from a pump that was installed next to her home in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as part of CRS' Budikadidi project.
Photo by Jennnifer Lazuta/CRS
Community members say they are happy to pay to use the pump. The women have more time to focus on income-generating activities, such as farming or selling goods at the market, and girls are no longer missing out on school time. Some families have been able to start home gardens.
Most importantly, there are much fewer water-borne diseases.
“It amazes me every time how clean this water is compared to the river water we used to drink,” says Bernadette Mbela, a young mother. “Clean water is helping to improve our health. It is saving our children.”
Budikadidi is a resilience and food security project that improves nutrition for pregnant and breastfeeding women and children under the age of two. The program was funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development through its Department of Humanitarian Assistance. More than 87,500 households across 484 villages in the Kasai Oriental province of the Democratic Republic of Congo participated in the project's interventions. Catholic Relief Services led this 7-year project in partnership with the National Cooperative Business Association, Sun Mountain International, Tufts University, Caritas Mbuji-Mayi, ReFED, and Reseau des Associations Congolaises des Jeunes, to deliver a multi-sectoral set of projects including agriculture and livelihoods, nutrition, health, water, sanitation and hygiene programs and governance. The integrated projects are based on global evidence and appropriately adapted to the local context, working to strengthen existing systems, improve accountability, strengthen social cohesion, and reduce barriers to structural, cultural and gender-based change.