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A photobook by Peter Casaer
Throughout the Democratic Republic of Congo, decades of neglect of the health system have resulted in very high infant and maternal mortality rates. Life expectancy is among the lowest in the world.
In the east of the country, civilians have borne the brunt of more than a decade of violent conflict.
Villages have been pillaged and destroyed, armed men have forced people to flee, and rape has been used as a tool of war.
Teams of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) are offering specialised medical care in hospitals, health centres and mobile clinics.
In June 2011, I travelled to the region of Masisi, in the Northern Kivu Province to visit the projects run by MSF.
I spoke with civilians with recent gunshot wounds who were treated by the MSF surgeons. I listened to the stories of women who had been raped by armed men (rebels, but also soldiers of the regular Congolese army) and had found medical care and psychological support in the MSF projects.
In the “Women’s village” that the organisation has set up for women with high risk pregnancies, I learned that many had lost one or more of their children due to the war and to the general lack of healthcare in the region.
Accompanying the MSF mobile medical teams to the displaced camps and into rebel areas, I was struck by the logistical difficulties to have access to those remote populations, by the appalling living conditions and the extreme poverty, by the insecurity and the ever present risk of being raped. By the lack of perspective also that things will change for the better soon.
But maybe most of all, I was moved by the courage of the people and those trying to assist them.