/ 17 December 2008

UN report points to ‘alarming’ levels of poverty in DRC

Nearly half the population in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) may not live to 40 years of age, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) said on Wednesday in a report on poverty in the country.

”Alarming” figures compiled by the UNDP highlighted the paradox of a country so rich in mineral resources having such high levels of poverty.

”The absence of peace and security constitute the major obstacles to lasting development in DRC,” wrote the authors of the report. ”So it is absolutely imperative to restore peace and re-establish security.”

The report said that 75% of the population lived below the poverty line — less than a dollar a day.

More than half the population (57%) had no access to drinking water or to basic healthcare (54%), while three out of every 10 children were poorly nourished, it added.

And there was a 47% chance that a Congolese would die before his or her 40th birthday.

While there had been some improvement in adult literacy and access to healthcare, all other indicators had worsened, the report continued.

Human rights groups have long argued that the battle in the east of the country for control of DRC’s mineral riches, including cassiterite (tin ore), gold and coltan, is part of the country’s problems.

One-third of the world’s estimated reserves of coltan, which is used to make electronics components, are in DRC. The country also has 49% of the world’s supplies of cobalt.

The DRC came last on a World Bank list of 181 countries ranking ease of doing business, published in its Doing Business 2009 report, which covers the period April 2007 to June 2008.

Violence in the eastern provinces of Nord- and Sud-Kivu has flared up in recent months, with the Tutsi rebels of the National Congress for the Defence of the People driving back government troops and their allied militias. — Sapa-AFP