Geography & people

Located in central Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is one of the world's largest countries, almost 4 times the size of France. It is bordered by nine other nations and is home to 75 million people (9 million in the capital, Kinshasa).

Situated on the equator, DRC features a variety of landscapes and climates. Dense tropical rainforest covers the vast central interior, while mountains in the east meet dry highlands and plateaus in the west and south. The Congo river is an immense and influential feature, flowing 2,900 miles (the distance from Madrid to Moscow via Milan). Expense and complexity of transport and communications in DRC are dictated by the sheer distances and impassability of the interior, lacking paved roads and railways.

The majority of the population lives in clusters of huts in rural villages, and many labourers work on farms producing crops like cassava, maize, bananas, and coffee. DRC is rich in natural resources, including cobalt, copper, petroleum, industrial and gem diamonds, gold, silver, zinc, tin, uranium, coal and timber.

There are more than 225 ethnic groups in DRC. The four largest groups - Mongo, Luba, Kongo and Mangbetu-Azande - make up around 45% of the population. Over 700 dialects can be heard in DRC, although French is official language.

Fast facts

The eastern provinces used to be the country's main source of food, but continuous looting of crops by militia rebels and a crumbling infrastructure have severely damaged production.

The civil war from 1996 to 2003 and recent rebel conflicts have reduced government revenues and national output. In 2013, DRC ranked last out of 186 countries on the UN Human Development Index.

Average life expectancy is very low - 56yrs - due to disease, violence and malnutrition.

Approximately 480,000 people are living with HIV/AIDS. 390,000 children have lost at least one parent to the disease.

Our focus in the DRC

Although the civil war ended officially in 2003, DRC experiences ongoing crisis with emergency threats - both man-made and natural - especially in its eastern areas. Millions of people have been displaced from their homes. Women and children are particularly vulnerable, in fear of sexual abuse, exploitation and kidnapping.

We are actively engaged in humanitarian and emergency response particularly, focusing on food aid, humanitarian protection, nutrition, health care, creating child friendly spaces and reintegrating internally displaced people.

World Vision is strengthening systems for child protection at local level, and also increasingly partnering with other agencies, especially those faith-based ones, with a broad reach across the DRC's 11 provinces. We have been working at local, national and international levels to mobilise stakeholders to tackle the root causes of child abuse, labour and trafficking and sexual exploitation. We are also taking part in the post-2015 processes which will deliver a global sustainable development framework for the next fifteen years.

Highlights of our work include:

Implementing new strategies to boost the effectiveness of our emergency responses, providing food, shelter, blankets and medicine for families affected by conflict.

Working with government health centres to build and upgrade facilities and provide medical examinations for thousands of children.

Providing good quality education, improving teaching skills, increasing school attendance and campaigning for girls' education. Learning environments have also been improved with new and renovated classrooms and equipment.

Working in partnership with local churches of all dominations, we are helping children and their families experience the transformational love of God.

Child parliaments, where older children or youth gather weekly to discuss important children's rights issues, help other children to resolve their problems and refer some to those responsible for child protection and also arrange awareness raising sessions in schools or churches.

Working with a local partner in Eastern DRC to support child prostitutes who wish to escape the brothels and be reintegrated back into their home communities.

Our achievements in the DRC

World Vision's work in DRC started back in 1958 when the country was known as the Belgian Congo and later Zaire. Since then our achievements in freeing children and their families from the fear of hunger, sickness and lack of opportunity include:

Health

We have enriched the lives of people living with HIV/AIDS, and cared for the orphans of those that have died. We've also educated people about preventing the spread of the disease.

Sanitation and better access to safe, clean drinking water have helped reduce the incidence of diseases, many of them fatal.

We have educated mothers about nutrition, hygiene and healthcare basics, including the treatment of skin and eye diseases.

Child protection

Working with UNICEF we have supported 13,742 displaced children, providing them with safe spaces and opportunities to learn and have fun. We've also helped strengthen child wellbeing committees to make sure children are looked after.

We provided psychological support for children who have been through traumatic experiences. With partners, weíve also worked to keep children and their families together and reunite those who have become separated.