About Republic of the Congo

Filled with incredible wildlife and known for its variety of national parks, the Republic of the Congo is located on the western coast of Central Africa, bordered by Angola, Gabon, Cameroon, Central African Republic, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The population of 5.4 million resides mostly in the southern regions of the country, especially in the coastal area of Pointe-Noire, the second largest city after the capital, Brazzaville. Nearly 70 percent of the population lives in these two cities and along the railroad that connects them; the rest of the country is sparsely inhabited by contrast.The population comprises a variety of ethnic groups, including Kongo, Teke, Mbochi, Sangha, Mbere/Mbeti/Kele, Punu, Pygmy, Oubanguiens, Duma, and Makaa. About three-fourths of the population is Christian. Interestingly, about one-sixth of the land in the Congo is set aside for conservation.

Formerly a French colony, Middle Congo became the Republic of the Congo in 1960 when the country gained its independence. While poverty rates have decreased over time, they are still quite high: 41 percent in 2011 compared to 51 percent in 2005. Extreme poverty rates have increased due to a drop in the price of oil, a key Congolese export. Health and education remain underdeveloped and lacking throughout the country.

The high poverty rate is reflected in the health of the population. Maternal and infant mortality are high: approximately 5 percent of children do not live to their fifth birthday. Chronic malnutrition affects 21 percent of children. Leading causes of death include HIV/AIDS, ischemic heart disease, stroke, malaria, lower respiratory infections, neonatal disorders, tuberculosis, diarrheal diseases, road injuries, diabetes, and cirrhosis. In addition to malnutrition, the risk factors that contribute most to deaths and disabilities include unsafe sex, air pollution, high blood pressure, high body-mass index, high fasting plasma glucose, dietary risks, alcohol and tobacco use, and insufficient water, sanitation, and hygiene.

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