The Democratic Republic of Congo is a vast country straddling the Equator in south central Africa. Roughly the size of western Europe (or the United States east of the Mississippi River), it is the second largest country in Africa by area, and home to an estimated 80 million people.
In spite of its large and quickly growing population, the country is so immense, and so little covered by any reliable transportation infrastructure, that large swaths of territory in the country remain either very sparsely populated jungle or savanna. Many rural populations live in near total isolation from the urban centers. The capital, by contrast, is a mega-city with an estimated 10 million inhabitants and one of the largest, and busiest, cities on the continent.
DR Congo is extremely rich in natural resources, particularly of the mineral sort, but also in forest, arable land, and water resources. Were exploitation of these resources organized, the country would be one of the richest on the continent.
Unfortunately, however, the opposite is true: the country remains extremely corrupt and chaotic. It is often referred to as the "Wild, Wild West" of Africa—an often-violent place where few rules are enforced and non-transparent deals are the modus operandirather than the exception in the commercial sphere.
The population is one of the world's poorest. It is, in fact, ranked lowest all the 186 countries in the United Nations Development Program’s 2012 Human Development Index, (which measures the average achievements in a country in three basic dimensions of human development: a long and healthy life [health), access to knowledge (education) and a decent standard of living (income).
The infant mortality rate is the second highest of the world, and life expectancy is still only 48.4 years.
Things took a major turn for the worse in 1996 when neighboring countries began actively meddling in DR Congo affairs with military campaigns and political manipulations. The country was very weak at the time, and foreign countries—several of which are considerably less endowed in natural resources than Congo-- had agendas involving both some armed groups present in the country and the country's relatively under exploited wealth.
The eastern part of the country has been plagued by armed conflict ever since. According to some sources, altogether it has been the deadliest conflict since WWII, with an estimated "excess" death toll of over 5 million people (though the high mortality is more the indirect result of the chaos callused by the war rather than violent confrontations.)
At the present time, the fragile government in Kinshasa provides few services to the population. Even the most basic duty of government – security – is by no means guaranteed, the army and police being more part of the security problem than the solution. Parents bear virtually all the costs of education and health care for their families, even as they struggle to subsist in a non-functioning economy where just getting some means to feed the family is a daily challenge.