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Republic of the Congo: access to drinking water and ICRC action 1997/2006

01-12-2006 Feature

The succession of armed conflicts in the Congo in the period from 1993 to 2003 had many disastrous consequences, particularly as regards access to drinking water. This document summarizes the action of the ICRC in favor of affected populations.

Most of the water supply infrastructures were damaged or destroyed or have not been maintained. It is consequently difficult for people to gain access to drinking water, despite the Congo's tremendous water resource potential.


As a neutral and independent humanitarian institution, the ICRC has been operating since 1997 to improve access to drinking water within the framework of its mandate of protecting and assisting populations affected by armed violence and its consequences.

In periods of emergency the ICRC has met the drinking water needs of displaced persons and, once hostilities have ceased, has worked to create a large number of infrastructures, the aim being to provide the various population groups with an adequate supply of high quality water in order to combat water-borne diseases.



 Access to drinking water at the sites of displaced persons  


From 1997 to 2003, the ICRC supplied drinking water to over 63,000 displaced persons, who had found refuge at various sites in Brazzaville and Kinkala. Bladder-tanks and standpipes were installed and wells constructed or rehabilitated. The last of the sites for displaced persons were closed in Brazzaville in April 2004 following a government decision.



 Access to drinking water in rural areas  


The ICRC carried out 359 operations in rural areas (construction or rehabilitation of watering points) providing access to drinking water for 159,000 beneficiaries in the departments of Pool, Lékoumou, Niari, Bouenza, Plateaux and central Cuvette.

 Access to drinking water in urban areas  

Since 1998 the ICRC has rehabilitated eight drinking water treatment plants – in Djiri, Djoué, Owando, Djambala, Dolisie, Nkayi, Madingou and Mossendjo - and has furthermore improved the Pointe-Noire electrical water drilling system.

ICRC action on urban networks has met the needs of some 550,000 people.  

The organization has provided the Société nationale de distribution d'eau (SNDE) with spare parts, equipment for monitoring water quality and some 1085 tonnes of chemicals for water purification. It has also supplied several thousand metres of piping required for restoring the secondary water distribution networks of the towns of Madingou and Dolisie to working order and extending them. The SNDE was given plumbing parts and piping for repairing leaks in the Mossendjo network.

In 1998, the ICRC rehabilitated a central maintenance workshop in Brazzaville for servicing the city’s water system with a view to enabling the SNDE to recover its operational capacity. This involved providing a l arge supply of technical equipment and tools which the SNDE did not have.

Two training sessions were organized for 20 members of the SNDE staff in November 2005 and June 2006 with a view to ensuring the maintenance of the equipment supplied by the ICRC in the various drinking water treatment plants in the Republic of the Congo. The instructor at these training sessions, which were financed entirely by the ICRC, was a specialist from the International Office for Water (IOW), which is based in Limoges (France).

 Perpetuation of works in the departments of Niari, Bouenza and Lékoumou  


 Over 190 man-powered pumps have been installed by the organization in the departments of Niari, Bouenza and Lékoumou, and in the period from 2000 to 2005 the organization had to attend to 146 of these pumps to carry out maintenance work.

In 2004, the ICRC identified the Sala Ngolo technical training centre in Dolisie as the best option for ensuring follow-up and pump maintenance until the competent authorities could sustain the installations on a long-term basis. Six young skilled repairmen were given theoretical and practical training in May 2005, on completion of which the ICRC provided them with basic equipment for carrying out their work.

 Perpetuation of boreholes and pumps in the departments of Cuvette and Plateaux  


A total of 103 boreholes were drilled in the departments of Plateaux and Cuvette in 1989 as the fruit of cooperation between the Congo and Japan. The damage caused during the conflict in 1997 to the plant and equipment stored in the central workshop in Owando made maintenance and repair work on the boreholes and pumps impossible. The ICRC was anxious to help to improve the state of health of the people living in these departments and rehabilitated and repaired 75 boreholes or pumps in 2004.


The organization is continuing its efforts in the Republic of the Congo today, where it is working to improve access to drinking water for the people who are suffering the consequences of past conflicts. Since the beginning of 2006, the ICRC has constructed 11 wells in the districts of Kinkala, Mindouli, Kindamba and Vinza and has worked to rehabilitate gravity-fed water systems and to protect drinking water sources. More recently, renovation work commenced on the Kinkala water treatment plant as the result of a partnership between the ICRC Delegation and the SNDE; this work is due to continue for just over six months. Following renovation the facility will serve approximately 10,000 beneficiaries.