Kinshasa, one of the three largest cities in Africa. Access to drinking water in the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo is a challenge for residents in the outlying neighborhoods of this urban monster with an unclear number of residents. Kinshasians in areas where there has been little urbanization, or none yet, often have no water distribution network. They get their water supply from springs or streams which flow in the depressions of a changing and unstructured landscape.
AFD has been supporting water supply in these new neighborhoods not served by the water authority since 2006. A decentralized management system has been set up by the local NGO ADIR. It is based on community participation structured around users’ associations, ASUREPs. A second implementation phase started in 2016 for four years, called PILAEP 2. The main objective is to connect 400,000 residents in 26 neighborhoods to water networks and thereby meet an essential need: high-quality and accessible drinking water.
The scientific evaluation research project conducted by AFD aims to scientifically evaluate this water infrastructure, its health impacts (diarrheal diseases, stress) and socioeconomic impacts (water chore for women, schooling for children, local governance, etc.). In the context of a conflict-affected State and failed administration, where very few studies have been conducted on this scale, its management requires a strong commitment from all partners.
As development partners, it is always necessary to measure the impact of what we do. These impacts can be positive, which we hope, or negative.
The objective of this two-month survey, from the end of March to May 2018, is to provide an inventory prior to the commissioning of the water network in the PILAEP 2 neighborhoods. A team of 60 Congolese interviewers is questioning 18,000 residents in 3,000 households and 10 survey areas. Recruiting interviewers, counting the households, interviewing and collecting data are among the stages covered by INS.
The teams are ultimately seeking to understand if the fact of reducing the distance to the water point – and therefore the time devoted to the water chore – increases, for example, the school enrolment rate for girls, income-generating activities and empowerment for women, and reduces the violent acts committed against them and the stress they experience on a daily basis. Finally, the improvement in the health of residents, especially children, is also evaluated. Another area involves questioning the quality of the governance established via users’ associations (ASUREPs).
The survey work is an art in itself. It involves being accepted, gaining the trust of people so that they answer questions and that these answers provide material for analysis. “When you introduce yourself for the first time”, says Jérôme Anyasi, an interviewer, “people don’t know why you’ve come to their homes. If you don’t manage to clearly introduce the purpose of the study, they can refuse. Once they’ve accepted, if you talk for a bit too long, people might get fed up and decide to do something else.”
Some subjects are also sensitive, adds the interviewer: “People don’t necessarily feel like giving certain information, like the value of their property”. The same goes for information about governance, corruption or violence in the neighborhood. In the current political context, which is deteriorating, the people interviewed may also be scared of getting arrested. A 3-day pilot test allowed the wording of the questions to be examined in order to make adjustments to the questionnaire. After making final adjustments to the collection tools and a launch meeting with the teams, it was possible to launch the survey.
Through this evaluation, AFD is seeking to bridge a knowledge gap concerning the effectiveness of sustainable investments in drinking water networks on public health, economic development and social ties. In terms of cholera, the international community generally focuses on short-term approaches via minor operations (distribution of chlorine tablets, filter kits) and emergency measures (immunization campaigns).
This impact evaluation, combined with another evaluation conducted in Uvira in South Kivu (DRC), aims to contribute to feeding into the international debate on the distribution between short and long-term investments and the importance that needs to be given to the quality of water and sanitation services in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals. As pointed out by Martin Leménager, head of the PILAEP project team, “It’s great to have a water network in your neighborhood, but it’s not enough. There mustn’t be unexpected cut-offs in the service and the water mustn’t contain bacteria!”.