The opening vignette in this New York Times piece describes the truly harrowing conditions of families living in the Congolese capital:
The Berboks are practicing a Kinshasa family ritual almost as common here as corrugated metal roofs and dirt streets: the “power cut,” as residents in this capital of some 10 million have ironically christened it. On some days, some children eat, others do not. On other days, all the children eat, and the adults do not. Or vice versa.The term “power cut” — in French, délestage — is meant to evoke another unloved routine of city life: the rolling blackouts that hit first one neighborhood, then another. […]“If today we eat, tomorrow we’ll drink tea,” said Dieudonné Nsala, a father of five who earns $60 a month as an administrator at the Education Ministry. Rent is $120 a month; the numbers, Mr. Nsala pointed out, simply do not add up. Are there days when his children do not eat? “Of course!” Mr. Nsala answered, puzzled at the question. “It can be two days a week,” he said.
Has the international development bureaucracy turned a blind eye to Kinshasa’s woes? Perish the thought. As astute readers of Via Meadia will recall, foreign NGOs spared few expenses in preparing and monitoring the country’s recent (rigged) elections. How refreshing to see western do-gooders finally focus on the real problems in Africa.The Berbok and Nsala families must have been thrilled to know that helicopters were ferrying paper ballots to remote villages for a fraudulent election. What a shame it would have been to throw that money away on food.