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.
In addition to these efforts to bring this crisis into view for the world, Doctors Without Borders continue to carry out emergency surgery, treating injuries including gunshot wounds and burns; run mobile clinics to reach those who have fled to safer, more remote areas; provide health care in hospitals and health centers; respond to epidemics like cholera; provide medical care to victims of sexual violence; and provide psychological support for those traumatized by what they have experienced. The scale of this humanitarian crisis in the Congo is extremely large. In 2007, Doctors Without Borders employed more than 2000 field staff and spent more than 39 million euros to fund its projects in the country, most of them coming from private donations.
I personally implore you to please, at the very least, watch the video clip here and if you feel moved to help, please visit the Condition: Critical website or the Doctors Without Borders site to volunteer or donate whatever you can to help these amazing people on their difficult but important mission.
“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive.” – The Dalai Lama