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The Belgian Government have generously funded Tearfund in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to implement a project of improved access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene as well as raising awareness on gender equality and sexual and gender-based violence in five health areas in Kalehe health zone, South Kivu.

The Belgian Government, through the Federal Public Service Foreign Affairs – Directorate General for Development Cooperation (DGD), provides grants to NGOs to deliver sustainable human development projects. Its vision is to work with its partners to construct a just, fair and sustainable world in which each person can live in peace, safety and freedom and protected from poverty.

South Kivu has been affected by violence in Kalehe territory since colonial times. It was also impacted as Rwandan refugees fled the genocide in 1994 and crossed into DRC as refugees. Militia groups remain active and armed bandits cause insecurity with civilian lootings and killings. Mass displacement often occurs as community seek safety.

Before Tearfund’s intervention, less than 28% of the population had access to clean water from protected sources. The low access of water increases the vulnerability of the communities to water borne diseases as they are forced to fetch water from unprotected sources. Latrine coverage was very low in the health zone, more than 90% of the Households visited did not have hygienic latrines and knowledge of good hygienic practises was very low.

In response to this, Tearfund has improved access to clean drinking water for over 38,800 people through the construction of Gravity fed water systems and boreholes, including in remote island communities. Water User Committees have been formed and trained to operate and maintain the water system. Sanitation facilities have been increased and 5440 households have constructed or rehabilitated their latrines according to the Village Assaini standard (a government endorsed programme for healthy villages). 80 local leaders have been trained on awareness and prevention of SGBV and awareness raising activities (house visits, focus group discussions, drama sketches) have been conducted by local facilitators.

Through this project, and with financial support from the Belgian Government, Tearfund is able reduce the risk of waterborne and sanitation-related diseases and so to improve the quality of life for conflict-affected communities living in Kalehe health zone, DRC.