The people of Mutaho, a village on the banks of the Virunga National Park in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, have been suffering from a lack of drinking water for decades.
The village has several agricultural lands and feeds the neighboring areas including the city of Goma thanks to the fertility of its soil which produces potatoes, beans, corn, bananas and several other foodstuffs.
However, Mutaho has no source of drinking water and has been forgotten by the government. Some inhabitants are forced to walk often three hours on foot to get a 20-litre can of water at 500 Congolese Francs.
Farmer Vunmi Mukeshimana: “We go to Kibati, several kilometres from here to buy drinking water. And unfortunately, finding the money to buy this water is a real ordeal.”
A luxury, which is not within everyone’s reach, elderly people who cannot fetch water can often go up to 3 days without eating, as water helps to cook food. Surprisingly, banana trees are the source of water par excellence in this village.
Regularly, each resident goes to this field to extract water from the banana trees, which is then consumed without any filtration, to quench thirst or for cooking. However, the water is the origin of several cases of cholera and diarrhea that have caused many deaths.
Mukonda Kamale is a health official in the village: “The water we consume is not good for our health because it contains a lot of microbes. It is water that has no treatment, no filtration, there is a lot of invisible toxic waste in this water but we are forced to drink it like that because we have no choice.
“We often have several cases of amoeba, diarrhea, cholera and many other diseases. Even to fight against Coronavirus, we use this same water for hand washing.”
In 1930, the pullets gave up their field to the construction of the Virunga National Park. On the condition that the entire Nyiragongo territory would be supplied with water. 90 years later, the promise still hasn’t been kept.