The Democratic Republic of Congo is a complex, challenging country. Decades of armed conflict have left a legacy of poverty, poor governance, displacement, violence and corruption.
But while media reports focus on shocking levels of human cruelty, visitors to Africa’s second largest country are often struck by the warmth of its people, their resilience and their determination to build a better future. We see this in our work with communities every day and it is this that inspires our programme.
The DRC is an immense territory at the heart of the continent that shares borders with nine countries. Since it gained independence from Belgium in 1960, the country has experienced decades of instability, wars, coups, corruption and fierce dictatorship. Despite its abundant mineral wealth, the DRC is one of the least developed countries on earth.
The economy is growing steadily, but these positive rates have had no tangible impact on a population that is getting poorer and poorer. More than 80 per cent of the population lives on less than US$1 a day. Access to essential services is extremely limited;
only 22 per cent of Congolese have access to drinking water and just one in 10 households use electricity. Unemployment is high, at 32 per cent.
The DRC has a poor record on human rights and security remains a major problem, particularly in the east of the country where people live under the constant threat of violence and economic exploitation from armed groups despite numerous peace efforts. This problem is compounded by the army, which has been accused of being responsible for many abuses, rather than protecting citizens. Sexual violence is widespread in the east. The lack
of security in the east has led to massive population displacement, both internally and externally.
Communities in the eastern part of the country are divided and live in constant fear of fighting and human rights abuses. As a result of endemic violence, they no longer trust their own neighbours and have lost faith in national and international institutions.