Located in the Great Lakes Region in the middle of Sub-Saharan Africa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is the second largest country in Africa. Approximately one-fourth the size of the United States, or about the size of Western Europe, it shares borders with nine nations.
A former Belgian colony, the DRC gained independence on June 30, 1960. However, the country has experienced years of civil war and regional unrest. The conflict hindered social and economic development, and has resulted the death of over 5 million people. Despite a peace accord and greater regional cooperation, peace and security in many areas remains fragile.
Although the country continues to develop and industrialize, myriad challenges remain. The DRC’s economy is increasing at a rate of 8.5%, yet the country has the lowest GDP per capita in the world; 70% of the population lives below the poverty line. Part of the challenge lies in managing the vast natural resources and improving infrastructure, including water and sanitation. According to the Joint Monitoring Program’s 2014 report, 54% of the total population and 71% of the rural population still lack access to an improved water supply while 51% and 54%, respectively, remain without access to an improved sanitation facility. Other challenges include disabling the sex trafficking industry and promoting a culture of gender equality.