This originally appeared on FrontLines.

Overhaul of dilapidated infrastructure means a lasting source of water comes to hundreds of thousands of DRC’s most vulnerable.

In the shadow of Africa’s most active volcano, Mount Nyiragongo, the shore of Lake Kivu in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) bustles with crowds each day. From dawn until dusk, hundreds of people—from as young as 5 to the elderly—come to the lake with dusty yellow plastic jerry cans to fill with as much water as they can carry.

Though the water is dangerous— risking cholera and other water-borne diseases—many families living in the nearby city of Goma have few alternatives for drinking, washing and cooking.

Goma’s dilapidated water system—already leaking, inadequate and badly damaged by lava flow when Nyiragongo erupted in 2002—simply can’t provide enough water for the city’s inhabitants. This is compounded by the more than 60,000 people who have been displaced when rebel forces took over the city for a short time in November 2012. Many travel for more than three hours to collect just one container of this untreated water, leaving little time for adults to earn income or for children to attend school.

Siya Marguerite’s children. Photo credit: Mercy Corps

“Here, there is no water, there are no rivers, so we all suffer,”  said Siya Marguerite, a mother of five children. “My children are growing up in conditions much worse than I had at their age. It really pains my heart to see and I am worried for our lives.” Marguerite settled in Goma after fleeing violence that plagues rural eastern Congo.

Here disease is closely linked to water quality. A 2008 survey of Goma inhabitants found that the incidence of diarrhea in children under age 5 was 22 percent. Although a 2010 government survey indicated that nearly two-thirds of urban areas have access to clean water, estimates for Goma are at best, 40 percent. Cholera outbreaks are a regular occurrence.

USAID, in partnership with Mercy Corps and other donors, is close to providing a lasting solution to the city’s water problem for disadvantaged families. In time for World Water Day on March 22, USAID and Mercy Corps completed the first and most significant phase of work rehabilitating, improving and massively extending the city’s water system, bringing safe water to the doorsteps of more than 250,000 people in Goma, nearly a quarter of the estimated population of the city…[continued]

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