[Thanks much to guest blogger, Sabine Wilke, CARE Media Director, Deutschland-Luxemburg e.V. She is reporting from the field in the DRC.]
“This picture could have been taken in Switzerland or at any other lake surrounded by mountains, maybe in Bavaria or British Columbia. But I took this photo in Goma, the capital of North Kivu, an Eastern province of the DRC. A place where, for decades now, armed conflicts and chronic poverty have taken an unimaginably heavy toll on the civilian population.
The news stories about Congo are always, always terrible. Human rights abuses, deplorable poverty, unsolvable conflicts. Maybe that is why the global public has grown tired of taking a closer look. Maybe that is why Congo simply is this big, black hole to the outside world. But three weeks ago, the world laid its eyes on Eastern Congo once more, when an armed group called M23 seized the town of Goma and forced out the Congolese army. It was the peak of an escalation of violence that has raged in this region for several months and has forced more than 800,000 people to flee.
Today, Goma is frighteningly calm since the M23 withdrew on December 1. Frighteningly is the most suitable expression, because the people of Goma do not really want to trust this calm. What if the next storm is just around the corner?
130,000 people have fled during the latest wave of violence. Countless women and young girls have been raped and injured, and the spontaneous camps and settlements around Goma are no safe haven for these survivors. Attacks and pillages are a daily ordeal. North Kivu has suffered from armed conflict, battles over commodities, chronic lack of infrastructures and ethnic rivalries for a long time; all the while the international community mostly turns a blind eye on the region.
Looking back at the photo from the lake shore, I think (and hope!) that this could be a glimpse into a possible future - a future where the population lives in peace and safety, where children can go to school and women are protected from sexual violence and abuse.
reality, unfortunately, is much better portrayed in the pictures taken by photographer Kate Holt,
who recently travelled to Goma for CARE. In light of the new emergency, CARE has scaled up its
programs against gender-based violence and trains community educators in the
camps. Displaced families receive plastic sheeting for a dry shelter and CARE
also implements a voucher program which helps poor families to purchase much
needed goods on the local market.
It is difficult to describe the human side of this conflict without it sounding like a platitude. Is it a cliché to say that the people of Goma, despite all, have not lost their friendly smiles? That they are warm and hospitable, enduring and tough, angry yet determined to survive? No, it is a reality that needs to be put in words from time to time. Because Eastern Congo is no black hole. Its colors and nuances are manifold --much like the lake when the sun hit its surface the moment I took the photo.”
Million Bones challenge is mobilizing students worldwide to make bones as a
symbol of solidarity with victims and survivors of ongoing conflict in places
like theDRC and Somalia. Every handmade
bone generates $1 from the Bezos Family Foundation for CARE's work in these regions, up to $500,000!
In June, 2013, one million handmade bones – made by students, educators and artists – will cover the National Mall in Washington, D.C. as part of a massive art installation and visual petition against humanitarian crises. Become one in a million: Take the challenge today and show the Congolese people that the world sees and cares about their struggle for peace.]