Zaire Table of Contents
According to UN estimates, only 14 percent of the population has access to safe water (52 percent urban and 20 percent rural). Potable water is provided to approximately half the population in urban areas through private connections or through public standpipes. The remaining 50 percent get their water from wells and surface water of varying quality. Roughly 30 percent of the urban population has access to a sewage system, 10 percent use septic tanks, and 60 percent use latrines. There is no garbage collection system. In rural areas, water quality varies widely. Only about 10 percent of the rural population has access to communal standpipes. About 20 percent of the population uses pit latrines.
Malnutrition is widespread in Zaire. Measures of children's standard weight-for-age show at least 25 percent of the country's children to be undernourished. Protein-calorie malnutrition and anemia are widespread. Iodine-deficiency disorders resulting in the growth of goiters and in cretinism are commonly seen in ╔quateur and in Haut-Za´re.
The major cause of malnutrition is poverty. Gross domestic product ( GDP--see Glossary) per capita has been decreasing in the 1980s and early 1990s, and Zaire's per capita GDP places Zaire among the poorest and least-developed countries in the world. Local markets are reported to have abundant supplies of food, but most of the population cannot afford to buy it. For example, average earnings in the capital of Kinshasa are not enough to buy the minimum basket of essential foods. Deficiencies in food production and diet are additional causes of malnutrition. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) statistics show national average calorie production per inhabitant as less than the minimum daily consumption requirements. The balance is made up by importing food. Dependency on cassava as a staple further degrades the diet. Cassava contains few nutrients, and the cyanide it contains is not always properly leached out in the process of food preparation.
Data as of December 1993