During my graduate studies in the mid-1990′s, I spent a good deal of time working in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. At the time, there were political tensions brewing that were threatening to tear the country apart at the seams. Much to my dismay, after leaving the country in 1998, a brutal war broke out that is still raging today. This war in the Congo is the widest interstate war in modern African history. The war involves seven foreign armies and is sometimes referred to as the “African World War”, yet most Americans are unaware that it is even occurring. Today at the dawn of 2009, people in the Congo are dying at a rate of an estimated 45,000 per month. The war is the world’s deadliest conflict since World War II, killing 5.4 million people. There is no end in sight; the violence continues to escalate with the civilian population in the crosshairs. The war has truly gutted this once beautiful country. It troubles me deeply to think that people I worked with, lived with, and broke bread with are enduring such turmoil and hardship.
Today, the incredible organization Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres) is trying very hard to bring attention to this tragedy in the Congo through their program Condition: Critical, Voices from the War in Eastern Congo. Condition: Critical is a multi-media initiative launched by Doctors Without Borders aiming to bring global attention to the humanitarian consequences of the intensifying war in the Congo. Through testimonies, photos, and video, Condition: Critical goes beyond headlines and news reports to document how civilians are struggling to survive in Congo’s North and South Kivu provinces, Ituri province, and the Haut-Uélé region – where violence, displacement, and sexual violence are mainstays of daily life.