If you have ever doubted that the Democratic Republic of Congo is the poorest nation on earth, it is perhaps because you are not aware of the way of life in the country. A country with a population of about a hundred million people, the Democratic Republic of Congo cannot afford basic water supply to more than three-quarters of its citizens. To put things in less mild perspectives, only a few cities, with about fifteen percent of the entire population, have access to electricity and running water. If you find this alarming, what is more alarming is the fact that the average citizens of the country cannot afford standard housing, and mostly live in buildings with crevices for rodents, mosquitoes, and insects. It is no wonder that diseases kill more people in the Democratic Republic of Congo than the violence from war, and neither is desirable for the good living of the people.
The few wealthy people in the country live behind walled compounds shielding houses made from brick. The good story ends at the boundary of their tall fences. For the masses who cannot afford brick homes, the answer to a shelter was found in an ancient method of building houses—the wattle and daub. A composite building technique for constructing buildings and walls, the wattle and daub involves daubing woven lattices of wooden strips with clay. The wooden strips are called wattles. To make the walls stronger, the daubing sticky material is always made of clay, sand, wet soil, straw, and animal dung. The roofing is not corrugated iron sheets either, but rather thatched roofs. It is a historical method of construction that has been around for nearly six thousand years. However, for the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo, it is a survival technique that still comes useful.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the masses build these houses without using any industrially made materials. The materials used for the building are harvested from the dense tropical rainforest that can be found all over the country. For those who cannot the luxury that the wattle and daub are to the people of DRC, they simply go for the frame houses made only from plant materials. To build the outer walls of the frame houses, Congolese tie sticks, and saplings together with extended strips of dry vines. For the roof, they arrange sticks into a frame structure that is covered with palm leaves. To ensure that rainwater does not sip through, the palm leaves are folded in twos and, using finely split vines, sewn together. The selling and buying of the split vines is a business supporting the lives of many Congolese on its own.
To understand the plight of the Congolese opting for this kind of buildings, it is noteworthy to know that a typical house built from purchased materials costs about five hundred dollars ($500). These are people who earn less than twenty-five dollars in a month ($25) and spend most of their income on food and transport. Although burnt brick houses and aluminium roofing sheet are beginning to replace these archaic methods of building houses, there are still much to do to make the burnt brick house habitable to a standard level of comfort, devoid of any unnecessary luxury.
With a population growth rate of 4.7 percent per year and an urbanization percentage of about forty-five (45) percent, the Democratic Republic of Congo’s housing demand remains bigger than the housing supply. The estimated gap is about four million units of housing needed across the country, with seventy-five (75) percent of the urban population opting instead to live in the slums. The government is intervening as best as it could, providing supply-side interventions to reduce this housing deficit. However, most of these government interventions are directed to the bigger cities of Lubumbashi and Kinshasa.
In the cities and the country at large, the lending rate for mortgages is high and can reach as high as 26.7 percent and, as such, prevent most Congolese from accessing financial services. It is worthy of knowing that only about fifteen percent of Congolese owns an account with a financial institution, with only 4.7 percent of a sixty-five (65) percent saving population doing so through a financial institution. In a survey conducted to determine the affordability of houses in DRC, it was reported that an economical home built by developers would cost about US$40000. To understand the implications of this, a medical doctor earns an average of US$570 a month (US$6840 per annum), making it quite difficult for them to avoid such a home. It is altogether impossible for a common Congolese to afford such homes. As such, good housing affordability in the Democratic Republic of Congo is limited to the elite minority.
This is the sad state of housing in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is difficult enough to get somewhere comfortable enough to lay down your head after a day of hard and long work. Toilets, standard kitchen, and verandas are luxuries that an average Congolese cannot afford to dream of—a bed to sleep and a roof to shied rain and heat is enough. Living a life of low-paying hard jobs, risky overloaded water transports and trekking, inadequate or no access to electricity, and the constant fear of insecurity and violence is enough to take a serious toll on the people. Add these to drinking unsafe and unclean water and houses without latrine or standard toilets, life becomes a torment. Yet, an average Congolese goes through these situations every day in a bid to stay alive.
These and more are the reasons why Congolese have cried out for help to people across the world. At ASBL LEF, we have thus harkened their cries and created a platform to show their plight to the people and government of Luxembourg. We want Luxembourgers and their government to understand the suffering of the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo. We want them to make alleviating the deep-rooted poverty in DRC a collective responsibility. As such, we have created platforms, programs, projects, and products through we can raise donations to support various poverty alleviation and empowerment project in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
We would work with NGOs in DRC to deploy such projects that will positively affect the provision of clean water, good housing, better and secure education, improved healthcare, and safe transportation to the masses. Join us by signing up to be a donor and guest at our various fundraising events design to cut across diverse interest bases in the fields of art, entertainment, education, and sport. Become a donor today and help create a safer, healthier, and an improved Democratic Republic of Congo.