In the Democratic Republic of Congo’s mining industry, regulations are ignored, conditions are unsafe, and many miners work for mining companies without formal contracts. In the town of Rubaya, at least one miner dies per month, but reporters in three provinces couldn’t find any families who had received compensation for such accidental deaths.
With shaky financial institutions closing and customers losing money, banking in the Democratic Republic of Congo is risky. The unreliable banking system is forcing people to seek out informal cooperatives or move their money across borders.
Despite laws in the Democratic Republic of Congo against economic exploitation of children, poverty leads those as young as 5 to search for minerals in the sand near mines, and some 40 percent of the unregulated artisanal miners are said to be children. Desperate parents give their blessing to this, and the children also do other odd jobs, such as carrying materials and cleaning minerals, though local officials are trying to combat these practices.
Each month, there are about four murders in Kirumba, a rural community of about 35,000. In response to the chaos that has become a way of life here, a community group called Silwamughuma was formed a year ago, so far helping more than 40 families as they mourn their loved ones.
In a region dependent upon agriculture, the poor condition of roads and bridges makes getting produce to market difficult. A group started by a missionary-activist promotes the labor of young men on construction projects, and grateful communities pay them with donations.
Paved roads, clean drinking water and electricity are lacking in the eastern central region of Democratic Republic of Congo, where valuable minerals abound—even though foreign mining companies are required by DRC law to reinvest in the communities. Due to official corruption, the vast foreign funding has had little visible impact, but one Canadian company has found a way around the problem by signing a direct agreement with village leaders to bring about community development.
Military widows in Democratic Republic of Congo complain that they haven’t gotten the lifelong benefits to which the law says they’re entitled, but a top military officer hopes the problem will be fixed soon. Among the issues: Some of the women aren’t listed, some weren’t legally married to the men, some of the deceased men aren’t listed, and fraudulent claims are common.
Insecurity continues to take its toll in the DRC. After 20 years of successive conflicts, an estimated 1.5 million people in the DRC have been displaced from their homes. One advocate urges humanitarian organizations to teach displaced girls the basic trades so they can earn money and avoid resorting to survival sex.
Hospitals in the city of Goma can handle the costs of natural childbirths. But mothers who have cesarean deliveries or whose newborns need intensive care that incur higher bills are not allowed to leave until they can pay. North Kivu Provincial Hospital relies solely on patients’ payments and would otherwise go bankrupt, a doctor says, adding that a support project in the works between his facility and the European Union should solve many of these problems.
There may be more than 1 million informal miners in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where unemployment is widespread, and some toil with rudimentary tools and earn mere cents per day. They may have “get rich quick” dreams, but many find themselves in debt after borrowing funds for transportation and living expenses, and some die from mine-related health issues or accidents.