Fourteen of the twenty-six provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are now flooded, the result of the torrential rains which have fallen on the country in recent weeks, causing the Congo River to flood. Since December 10, 2023, floods have caused at least 300 deaths across the country, according to the Ministry of Social Affairs.

In Kinshasa, the capital, several neighborhoods are still underwater. But it is in the provinces that the emergency is greatest. In Mbandaka, capital of the province of Equateur, and in the surrounding fishing villages, the flooding of the Congo River has forced many residents to leave their homes.

“There are families who have moved to our plot, we welcome at least 27 people here,” says Jean-Louis Akpoa, 28, an employee of a bank in the city. Three years after his installation, it is the first time, he testifies, that he has witnessed such a rise in the water level. Among the families it accommodates, some lived in houses built of clay, located on the banks of the river. In Mbandaka, several hundred families are now homeless, their houses destroyed by water. “These families are suffering. We are waiting for the authorities to take urgent measures in the face of this natural disaster,” asks Jean-Louis Akpoa.

Roads cut

The floods have drowned the neighborhoods of Ekundé, Bongodjo, Basoka, a situation which, according to Reddy Djassa, research assistant at the Higher Educational Institute of Mbandaka, “compromises commercial activities at the port, the markets as well as the truck transport “. He describes the state of the roads which have become impassable, such as national 8, the main exit route from Mbandaka: “The road is currently cut, which forces us to take small, unsafe canoes to cross the town. . The city center is not spared either, for several days traffic has been cut off on the main arteries. »

This natural disaster further complicates the precarious standard of living of the province’s inhabitants. On November 19, President Félix Tshisekedi, since re-elected, opened his electoral campaign in Mbandaka. He then promised to give work to the region’s youth but since the floods, no political leader has spoken about the fate of the victims.

“Today I don’t know if the president continues to think of us. On the side of the governor, who is elected by the provincial deputies, it is the same thing. They are all more concerned about their political future than about the state of the territory,” confides, a little wearily, Reddy Djassa, who attended the president’s meeting. The results of the national and provincial legislative elections were to be published on January 3, but their announcement was postponed to a later date by the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI), which says it has noted fraud and irregularities in certain polling stations. On Thursday, January 11, Deputy Interior Minister Jean-Claude Molipe asked the governor of Equateur, Dieudonné Boloko Bolumbu, as well as the governors of Kinshasa and Mongala, a northern forest province, to let their deputy will act as interim officer while the CENI investigates their case.

Nearly 6.5m above sea level

In Mbandaka, flooding is raising concerns about the health situation. Cédric, the co-manager of the Emma hostel, says that “despite the fence, water seeped everywhere. Around the establishment, toilets overflow and excrement is exposed for all to see, raising fears of a return of cholera. Contacted by Le Monde, hydrologist Raphaël Tshimanga describes this flood as “exceptional”, the flood having exceeded sea level by almost 6.5 m in places, according to the Régie des passages fluviales.

“Since 2015, we have been witnessing rare hydrological events that make us think about the consequences of climate change, aggravated by deforestation,” explains Raphaël Tshimanga. In addition to the material damage, the multiplication of mosquitoes makes the researcher at the University of Kinshasa fear a future malaria epidemic.

Beyond managing the current crisis, Raphaël Tshimanga expects the Congolese authorities to put in place a tool to anticipate future river flooding and calls for the creation of a fund to help manage natural disasters.