February 2021

ASSESSING THE EFFECTS OF COVID-19 ON ACCESS TO WATER, SANITATION, AND HYGIENE – Country Deep Dive Report – DRC

In May 2020, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) tasked the Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene Partnerships and Learning for Sustainability (WASHPaLS) project with assessing the effects of the novel Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) on access to water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) services and products in USAID high priority and strategy-aligned countries. The assignment sought to characterize the current state of affairs and to forecast near-term trends (6–18 months) that could assist governments, donors and implementers prepare an informed response to the WASH-related impacts of the pandemic.

This report presents the detailed findings of the deep dive for Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

There are indications that the COVID-19 pandemic control measures instituted by the government of DRC, largely in place from mid-March to mid-May 2020, did not result in the kinds of suspensions of economic activity documented elsewhere in sub-Saharan Africa. Still, the resulting economic shock in DRC was significant (with 31 percent of our survey respondents reporting a drop in earnings, and 27 percent reporting either losing their job or closing a non-farm business). The government declared two months of water tariff suspension for the entire country, but additional details of the terms and conditions of planned support to the WASH sector are less clear.

Our topline findings, by subsector, are as follows:

WATER SUPPLY – CURRENT STATUS

1) The government’s free water directive may have modestly mitigated challenges in accessing drinking water during the pandemic.

2) With financial support from the government yet to materialize, the main water utility, REGIDESO, is experiencing greater financial distress.

3) REGIDESO has increased tariffs following the free water directive period.

4) The countries’ “autonomous water systems” (AWSs) have also struggled because of the free water directive.

5) Rural respondents to our SMS surveys report high levels of pandemic-related water stress.

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In collaboration with USAID, Tetra Tech, FSG and Iris Group.

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