Even in parts of the country where violence has ceased, undoing the cost of conflict is not an easy task. “Tanganyika has stabilised over the last two or three years,” explains current Concern DRC country director Russell Gates. “Now it’s in that phase of, OK, the conflict has stopped for large parts of this province, but there’s no food, there’s no investment, there’s nothing. It was all destroyed, or it’s all gone.”
This is the last part of the cycle of conflict, and one that’s easily forgotten: Any stability that comes with a ceasefire will be short-lived if people are not able to recover their lives and livelihoods.
There are challenges here, too. The DRC is comparable in size to all of Western Europe. However, its vast geography is characterised by low population density and expansive forests. According to the UN, there are only about 1,400 miles of paved road in DRC, and just over 9,000 miles of unpaved road (which are frequently impassable during the rainy season). Most of the country is literally off the grid: Only 10% of Congolese have access to electricity, a figure that drops to only 1% in rural areas, where most of the country lives.
More than half of the country — a figure as high as 50 million — lacks access to clean water. This is especially worrying in the face of several epidemics in recent years including the world’s second-largest Ebola outbreak, measles, malaria, and cholera. The country is now grappling with COVID-19, as well as another increasingly severe epidemic: hunger.