A MASSIVE £38 million scheme to bring clean water to 1.5 million people in one of the world’s poorest countries is being masterminded by Edinburgh-based charity Mercy Corps.
The project in the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) includes hacking through lava deposits from a live volcano to lay pipes for the water.
It is being funded by the UK Department for International Development.
International Development Secretary Justine Greening visited Mercy Corps headquarters in Sciennes to meet programme director Lisa Seymour and hear more about the scheme.
Ms Seymour, 30, who was out in DRC before Christmas and will make another visit later this year, said: “This is our biggest grant from DFID [Department for International Development] to date. We already have a water project in the city of Goma, which will benefit 350,000 people, and this will build on that and establish water networks in at least two other cities, reaching another 1.5 million people.”
The work involves renovating existing, pipeworks and building new infrastructure.
She said: “Goma has a live volcano right next to it which erupted in 2006 and there is a lot of manual work involved in getting through the lava. You would normally drill through it with machinery, but a lot of it has to be done by hand. It is quite an arduous task.”
The project will take up to five years to complete.
Five million people died in a war between the government and rebel groups in 1998-2003.
The conflict continues and millions of people have been displaced.
Ms Seymour said 51 million people in DRC – three-quarters of the population – had no access to clean water. “Water-borne diseases are rife and when a child has diarrhoea, for example, and you want to rehydrate them all you have to give them is more dirty water. It is a vicious circle.
“But this is the kind of project that once we have established it, it can be replicated in other cities.”
Mercy Corps will also work with local organisations to make sure operators know how to maintain the water system once it is up and running and educate people in essential hygiene and water storage.
After her visit to the charity, Ms Greening said: “The UK is helping over a million people in the Democratic Republic of Congo get access to much-needed clean water and sanitation thanks to the work of Edinburgh’s Mercy Corps.
“The bravery and hard work of aid workers like Lisa make this possible. Families in one of the most deprived regions in the world have the chance of a better future thanks to their efforts.”
Mercy Corps was formed after rescue workers from Edinburgh-based Scottish European Aid and a US organisation Mercy Corps came together to help Romanian orphans in the late 1980s.