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Republic of the Congo: Water running again in Brazzaville

04-12-1997 News Release 97/48

" Thanks to you, life can start again in Brazzaville! " This was the emphatic tribute paid to the ICRC by an engineer from the national water supply company (SNDE) as the precious liquid began to flow again from the Djiri water pumping station.

Since late October the ICRC has been doing its utmost to restore the drinking water supply in the capital. Brazzaville had been without running water and electricity since the early days of the conflict, which broke out on 5 June 1997. Previously, the inhabitants - who are now returning to their homes in increasing numbers - had been obliged to use the tanks installed by the ICRC, which were regularly replenished from its water tankers, at various points in the city.

The ICRC took care of logistics and supplied the cables needed to repair the power line feeding the Djiri water pumping station. After several weeks'work and with the provision of over 100 tonnes of chemicals to purify the water, the station was back in service on 27  November with an output of 45 million litres per day. Another 30 million litres are being supplied by the second station in Djoué, which is also receiving ICRC support.

The people of Brazzaville expressed joy and relief at the return of the water supply. The lines of women and children carrying buckets to the distribution points have almost disappeared. " During the war, we had forgotten what normal life was like, when we could wash, quench our thirst and cook without having to count the number of glasses of water we used " , said one woman, visibly happy at seeing the water running again from the taps in her area.

The work is not yet over, howeve r: there are countless leaks in the supply network because of the heavy shelling which devastated the city. With the help of the ICRC engineers, around a hundred leaks have already been repaired, and there are plans to install between 200 and 300 public distribution points in places where the network is too badly damaged.

The ICRC has made a commitment to the Congolese engineers to guarantee, at least until spring 1998, the supply and transportation of chemical products, maintenance equipment and tools  needed to ensure that the two water supply stations can continue to function.