Press release

Global Handwashing Day: Britain supports water and sanitation access to 4 million in DRC

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Development Minister Lynne Featherstone announces major partnership with international NGOs which will improve sustainable access to water and sanitation.

The UK has launched a 7 year programme to improve sustainable access to water, sanitation and hygiene for almost 4 million people in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), International Development Minister Lynne Featherstone announced today.

Coinciding with Global Handwashing Day, DFID is launching a major partnership with UNICEF, Oxfam, Mercy Corps and a consortium of 5 International NGOs (Concern Worldwide, ACF, ACTED, Solidarités International and CRS) to improve water, sanitation and hygiene for at least 3.75 million Congolese.

The support will improve health outcomes in the DRC, where only 46% of the population has access to clean water – well below the 60% average for sub-Saharan Africa.

Access to sanitation in rural areas is even worse, with less than 20% of the population having access to human waste disposal. This has contributed to DRC having the second highest level of child mortality in Africa, with 1 in 5 children not reaching their first birthday. Diarrhoea caused by poor sanitation is a leading cause of infant mortality in developing countries.

Lynne Featherstone said:

Health is the very foundation of development, and access to safe water and sanitation is a basic human right and the cornerstone of good health.

Too few people in the Democratic Republic of Congo have access to the water, sanitation and hygiene they need, which is why we are launching this ambitious and innovative programme.

Working with our partners in the field, Britain is taking the lead in improving the lives of the very poorest and alleviating poverty around the world.

DFID has allocated up to £164 million for this, and the funds have already begun to be disbursed through a range of new and existing programmes:

  • Ecole et Village Assainis (£84.6 million with UNICEF). Meaning healthy villages and schools, this programme is designed to provide access to a “healthy environment” through the provision of water and sanitation and an emphasis on education. Between 2008 and 2012, the programme delivered water to 1.72 million people, sanitation for 1.54 million and hygiene education to 1.4 million across DRC.

  • Integrated Maji infrastructure and Governance Initiative for Eastern Congo (£38 million with Mercy Corps). This programme will rehabilitate urban sanitation networks in Goma and Bukavu, as well as building capacity for communities to manage their own water systems.

  • Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Consortium DRC (£30 million with Concern Worldwide, ACTED, Action Against Hunger, Catholic Relief Services and Solidarités International): an innovative new mechanism that comprises 5 experienced international NGOs who, for the first time, will pool their expertise to increase the coverage of sustainable water and sanitation provision in rural areas of the DRC.

  • Urban sanitation marketing (£6 million for pilot and scale-up with Oxfam). A pilot project to improve awareness of the importance of sanitation in urban areas.

“The simple act of handwashing with soap is one of the most effective ways to save children’s lives,” said Sanjay Wijesekera, global head of UNICEF’s Water, Sanitation and Hygiene programmes. “Washing hands before eating and after defecation drastically reduces the spread of diarrhoeal disease and has far reaching effects on the health and welfare of children and communities.”

Notes to Editors

  • The UK has committed to providing clean drinking water and proper sanitation to 60 million people by 2015.
  • Poor WASH means that DRC is significantly off-track in achieving the MDG target for water and sanitation, which would require an expansion in coverage to 70% and 55% of the population respectively by 2015.
  • For more information about the new programme “Increasing sustainable access to water sanitation and hygiene in the Democratic Republic of Congo” see our projects database

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