Democratic Republic of Congo and surrounding nations.
Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire)
• Population - 65,751,512
• Capital City – Kinshasa
• The DR Congo is of vital strategic importance because it’s size (2.5 million sq. km) and the fact that it is endowed with 50 per cent of Africa’s forests.
• The DR Congo ranks among the world’s largest producers of industrial diamonds.
• The macro-economic framework has recovered; inflation rates are down from 630 per cent in 2000 in less than 3% in the first quarter of 2004.
• First free elections in almost 40 years took place in July 2006.
• The Congo River at 2,720 miles long is one of the world’s mightiest river systems. It could provide hydroelectric power to the entire continent. It is the fifth-longest river in the world, and the second longest in Africa - second only to the Nile River in Northeastern Africa. It has recently reopened and it is the biggest transportation source in Central Africa.
• The DR Congo contains 80 per cent of world reserves of columbite-tantalite (coltan).
• Over 200 African ethnic groups of which the majority are Bantu; the four largest tribes - Mongo, Luba, Kongo (all Bantu), and the Mangbetu-Azande (Hamitic) make up about 45% of the population
• Religions: Roman Catholic 50%, Protestant 20%, Kimbanguist 10%, Muslim 10%, other (includes syncretic sects and indigenous beliefs) 10%
• Languages: French (official), Lingala (a lingua franca trade language), Kingwana, Kiswahili, Swahili, Kikongo, Tshiluba.
DR Congo Health Statistics
• The average life expectancy is 42-47 years. In 2003, approximately 2.5% of the population were 65 years old or older.
• The infant mortality rate in the Congo is 9.6%. In the United States, the rate is significantly smaller (0.6%).
• Nearly 20% of newborn children die before their fifth birthday.
• Poverty is an overwhelming problem in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In 2002, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita was only $600. In contrast, the GDP per capita in the United States was $36,300.
• In 1995, the Congo had the biggest polio epidemic of the 20th Century.
• There are 150,000 new infections of tuberculosis each year.
• One out of every seven deaths is HIV/AIDS related.
• In 2001, there were eight times as many HIV/AIDS related deaths in the Congo (120,000) than in the United States (15,000), despite the fact that the population in the Congo is 1/5th the size of the U.S.
• Malaria is one of the leading causes of death. More than four millions new cases were reported in 2003.
• According to health ministry statistics, five percent of the 4.5 million people infected by malaria last year died of the disease.
Mother and child in Kinshasa receiving vaccination.
The State of the Nation's Health
Structure of the Health System
The Democratic Republic of the Congo has 11 provinces and 306 health zones. In each of these zones, a general hospital and 10 to 20 primary care health centers serve a population of 100,000 to 200,000 people. The Ministry of Health offers other programs, such as immunizations or services devoted to tuberculosis, leprosy, and onchocerciasis. These services vary in availability and integration into the primary care health system.
The government assigns teams of nurses to cover the health zones of the Congo. During these visits, an entire village gathers for examinations. Volunteers and staff carry supplies from the river to the village to set up the makeshift clinic, marked off by bamboo poles. Nurses weigh children and adults, measuring the circumference of heads and arms as one indicator of nutritional levels and growth progress. Expedition physicians listen to hearts and perform basic exams. They dispense immunizations and offer health education classes in family planning and nutrition.
To assist in the delivery of health care in the country, Catholic ad Protestant missions have developed and maintained hospitals and health centers since the early 1900s. Because of the beleaguered circumstances of state institutions, these organizations have played strong supportive roles in the delivery of health care services.