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Historic river flooding pushes hundreds of thousands of people out of their homes: ‘It is imperative that people … move’

“What surprises me the most is the silence of the authorities in helping these families who are suffering.”

"What surprises me the most is the silence of the authorities in helping these families who are suffering."

Photo Credit: iStock

Hundreds of people have lost their lives due to historic flooding in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and hundreds of thousands more have been displaced and find themselves in desperate need of aid.

What’s happening?

The Congo River Basin is experiencing its worst flooding in over 60 years, reported Reuters, with floodwaters reaching 20 feet above sea level. In the capital city of Kinshasa, with a population of over 17 million (according to World Population Review), several densely populated neighborhoods have flooded.

According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), besides hundreds of thousands being without homes due to the floodwaters, millions more are affected, according to Voice of America. 

OCHA spokesman Jens Laerke said, “Villages, schools, and health facilities have been flooded, and many water points and sanitation facilities are no longer functional.”

Many of the villages affected can only be reached by boat or canoe, making the necessary aid incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to deliver, reported Voice of America.

Ferry Mowa, a hydrology specialist at the DRC riverways authority, warned in December that the flooding could be catastrophic.

Mowa told Reuters at the time, “It is imperative that people who live around the river move.”

Unfortunately, few had that option.

Why the flooding in the Congo River Basin is concerning

The flooding and the devastation it’s caused are concerning on multiple levels.

According to OCHA (reported by Voice of America), the flooding was caused by above-average rainfall in central and eastern Africa over the last half of 2023. That follows the global trend of the average rainfall worldwide steadily increasing since the beginning of the 20th century.

Some, including climate activist Ketsia Passou, believe the flooding is a result of the warming of the planet.

“I’m not surprised to see that the water level is increasing to this extent,” Passou told Reuters. “What surprises me the most is the silence of the authorities in helping these families who are suffering the effects of climate change.”

On top of that, the DRC lacks the urban planning and infrastructure to handle such an event.

The flooding has also made the issue of plastic pollution in the area impossible to ignore. Residents trying to escape in boats find themselves paddling through thousands of floating plastic bottles, sometimes so thick that you can’t even see the murky floodwaters beneath them.

What’s being done about the flooding?

Raphael Tshimanga Muamba, the director of a Congo Basin research center, has called for a fund to help adapt to the changing planet and manage natural disasters in the future, Reuters reported. 

But as for the immediate help residents of the area need, it appears that the U.N. and the World Health Organization (WHO) are handling most of the relief efforts. The U.N. has allocated $3.6 million towards those efforts. Plans are being developed to get food and healthcare to those affected by the flooding.

Laerke, the OCHA spokesman, has also appealed to the international community to help with additional funds. 

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