In his June 20 article, Foreign Policy‘s Charles Kenny writes, “Citizens of the Democratic Republic of the Congo believe there’s hope for their war-torn country even if no one else does — and their optimism is starting to get results.”
The history of bloodshed, exploitation, and poverty in the country is well-documented, and some of its deepest problems lie still unresolved. The civil conflict that followed the end of kleptocrat Mobutu Sese-Seko’s dictatorship left between 1.8 million to 5.4 million Congolese dead. Late economist Angus Madison’s data indicate that “at no point since 1820 has anywhere in the world been as poor as the Congo has been in the past few years.” And TrustLaw, a women’s rights NGO, recently named the DRC the second worst place in the world to be a woman, after Afghanistan.
Yet despite these seeming insurmountable crises, infant mortality decreased from 15 percent to 9 percent during the period from 1990-2007, there have been reductions in maternal mortality, and the prevalence of HIV/AIDS has decreased to 3.4 percent. Public health in the Congo is seeing improvement, due largely to the accessibility of basic health care services. More children are being vaccinated against diphtheria, whooping cough, and tetanus and over half of Congolese households have insecticide-treated bed nets. The improvements suggest that adequate governing institutions are not prerequisites for better health care, and that the lack of such governance should not be used as an excuse for a lack of progress in public health.