Life in the Democratic Republic of Congo

The facts and figures about life in the Democratic Republic of Congo make for grim reading perhaps reflecting the fact that before and after its independence from Belgium in 1960 it has been seen as a country to exploit (DRC is rich in natural resources including industrial diamonds, cobalt, and copper) with, as ever, its people being the main victims.

Named by European colonialists after river associated with the Kingdom of the Kongo, the country has seen ongoing conflicts over the decades with a civil war that killed upwards of 5.4 million people, the most causalities of any war in Earth's history, save for the Second World War. When it finally finally came to an 'end' in 2003, it had left communities and families destroyed, children abandoned, infrastructure in tatters and, even today, rebel groups continue to operate in the east of the country.

All this has left the Democratic Republic of Congo ranked in 179th place out of 191 countries and territories in 2021 by the HDI (Human Development Index) measured by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) and the World Bank based upon the life expectancy, literacy, access to knowledge and living standards of a country. Poverty in the Democratic Republic of Congo is rampant.

In 2018, it was estimated that 73% of the population lived below the international poverty line, equating to around 60 million people. This is widely attributed to high rates of malnutrition (43% of children under the age of five are malnourished) illness, and poor education again reflecting the instability of the country and its resultant ability to deliver services. Life expectancy is 60.68 years (2019), infant mortality is 63.8 deaths per 1,000 live births and malaria remains the leading cause of death in the country causing around 13,000 fatalities a year, most children aged under five years old.

Life in the Democratic Republic of Congo normally means being part of one of the major ethnic groups that include the Mongo (centre), the Kongo (west), the Luba (south-central), the Lunda (south), the Bemba (southeast), and the Kasai (southwest) as well as the Bantu people who typically live in the north and north-east.

These include the Ngala, the Buja, the Bira, the Kuumu, and the Lega (Rega). Around 50% of the country's population is Roman Catholic, 20% Protestant, 10% Kimbanguist, and just 10% is Muslim with the remaining 10% made up of other religions and indigenous beliefs.


Life in the DR Congo

Life in the DR Congo

Life in the DR Congo

Life in the DR Congo


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Life for Children in the Democratic Republic of Congo
Life in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Villages Homes in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Over half of the population of the Democratic Republic of Congo live in rural areas, typicaly in scattered villages ranging in size from 10 to 25 homes up to 150 to 200. Many of these inhabit the savanna woodlands of the south-central regions. Most rural housing units are tradtionally made from bamboo, straw and mud (above) while those in more urban areas are made from more durable materials and contain more rooms. Most households comprise an average of 5.3 members with around a quarter of them headed by women with most families in western areas of the country tending to be matrilineal, with the mother's brother as the male with the greatest authority in the family, rather than the husband although in other areas of the country, patriarchal and polygamous families, as well as combinations of these, are common.

Living in the Democratic Republic of Congo

The agricultural sector in the Democratic Republic of Congo (mainly growing cassava, yams, plantains, rice, and maize with cash crops including coffee, palm oil, rubber, cotton, sugar, tea, and cocoa), provides the livelihood for over 60% of the population and generates 19.7% of the country's GDP yet, despite having 80 million hectares of arable land, of which 4 million hectares are irrigated, together with many rivers providing rich fish resources, the country cannot ensure food security with nearly 900,000 children under the age of five and more than 400,000 pregnant or lactating women being acutely malnourished. Most families live on cassava, rice, potatoes, bananas, yams, beans, maize, fish, groundnuts, and various other fruits and vegetables with a staple food being fufu, a paste made from flour and water served with a sauce made from tomatoes or peanuts. Another popular food is shikwanga and meals are traditionally prepared using an outdoor wood or charcoal fire. Most rural families eat with their hands with men and the women and children often eating separately. For more about life in the Democratic Republic of Congo, check out the articles above.


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