Kalemie, with some 250,000 inhabitants the main city of northern Katanga province, has suffered the effects of the armed conflicts that have shaken the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo since 1996. After having to contend with the gradual return of those who had fled the city, in the past few weeks it has had to absorb Congolese refugees returning from neighbouring Zambia. Repeated crises and the population influx have had a negative impact on access to drinking water for those who need it most.
People living in Kalemie rely on water provided by the Regideso water company, whose treatment plants are driven by electricity produced some 120 kilometres north of the city at the Bendera hydro-electric power station. In 2004, however, the station was severely damaged by strong rains. In view of the link between the electricity supply and water treatment, the ICRC had a technical analysis of the Bendera station performed in order to determine what action should be taken to maintain the supply of drinking water.
On the basis of this analysis and of requests made by the SNEL electricity company, the ICRC decided to provide equipment and repair and maintenance devices, while SNEL agreed to carry out maintenance work.
The ICRC will hand over electrical and mechanical measuring devices, insulating devices, electrical emergency repair equipment, lifting and handling equipment and other items to SNEL at Bendera power station on 31 May. These items should make it possible to improve access to drinking water for nearly 80 per cent of Kalemie's population.
Improving access to drinking water - thus also improving hygiene conditions - for those most in need is a priority for the ICRC, which has a mandate to bring protection and assistance to the victims of armed conflict and other situations of violence. The ICRC's Kalemie office is closely monitoring the situation in northern Katanga from the humanitarian point of view.
For further information, please contact:
Arnaud Leclerc, ICRC Lubumbashi, tel. +243 81 275 65 67
Wolde-Gabriel Saugeron, ICRC Kinshasa, tel. +243 81 700 85 36