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18 August, 2015 00:00 00 AM
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Bad roads, low rivers stifle life in northwest DR Congo

AFP

AFP, ZONGO: Imagine living in a place bigger than Germany and Belgium combined but with few or flooded roads, broken bridges and unnavigable rivers as your only link to supply lines.
Welcome to the Democratic Republic of Congo’s lush Equateur province, which once made multinationals rich and exported food to other parts of the country before decades of neglect changed all.
“When the bridge is repaired, I’ll drive on. Now, I sleep in the lorry,” said sheet metal worker Jean-Pierre whose supply trip between the towns of Zongo and Libenge, 120 kilometres (75 miles) apart, turned into a three-week saga.
Land transport is difficult at the best of times in Equateur, where a chronic lack of infrastructure has seen the scarce roads fall into disrepair and complicate trade and daily life.
Locals’ only alternative is patience. “I was left with a little money, but it’s almost run out. You eat once a day, you sleep,” said Jean-Pierre.
A potential lifeline is the Ubangui river, which forms the border between Equateur and two neighbouring states, the small Republic of Congo and the restive Central African Republic (CAR).
But a marked dry-season decline in water levels over the past 20 years has prevented cargo boats from heading upstream from the spot place where the Ubangui flows into the mighty Congo River.
“The real challenge in Equateur is the roads,” said Ursula Nathalie Dzietham, bureau chief in Zongo for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, which struggles to reach people who fled the latest strife in the CAR.
“The means of getting around really aren’t obvious,” she said. The UNHCR tries to maintain several wooden bridges in the region, but they are prone to breaking.
On a recent day, a  dozen men unloaded a truck full of chickpeas sent by the UN World Food Programme. The lorry can only cross the bridge when it is empty, so the men will reload it later, hoping to earn a little food.
A farming community of about 140,000 people, Zongo sprawls across rich green land in a bend of the Ubangui. On the far bank lies Bangui, capital of the deeply poor and partly arid CAR.
During the dry months from mid-April to mid-July, it takes roughly an hour and a half to drive from Zongo to Mole, 30 kilometres to the south. After the rains start, it takes up to twice as long, with a constant risk of skidding or getting stuck in mud.
“Since it’s soon the rainy season, we’ll be cut off from the rest of the country (...) There will be shortages,” said Eudes Eloko, Zongo’s deputy mayor.

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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