The current escalation of violence has brought the crisis in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) back into the media spotlight, but too often the people of North and South Kivu are left to survive with little help or attention from the international community.
The war has shaped the lives of everyone in the region. Their daily routine has become one of survival amidst a litany of violence.
Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), one of the few humanitarian organisations still working in the most violent areas of the region, is ringing the alarm with the international campaign Condition: Critical.
The campaign highlights the situation of people in DRC's North and South Kivu provinces and gives them a chance to be heard. These people are best placed to explain the conditions they face and their needs, to give a face to their suffering.
With the launch of Condition: Critical, MSF wants to highlight the ongoing crisis in the eastern DRC. Condition: Critical tells the personal stories of people struggling to survive in a region that has become the frontline of a conflict raging for years, and which sharply intensified at the end of August, 2008.
MSF invited World Press Photo laureate Cédric Gerbehaye to the region. His photographs are the basis of a feature that is central to the Condition: Critical website www.condition-critical.org.
MSF has been working in the DRC since 1981 and in North and South Kivu consistently since 1992. Our medical teams 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 centres; 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.
Through personal testimonies, photos and , www.condition-critical.org (click for website) aims to help the people of the Kivus have their voices heard by the outside world. It is a tool for them to talk about their daily lives, and their struggle to survive in such bleak circumstances.
If the crisis continues, the website will run for at least a year, bringing fresh news and material regularly in an effort to keep the crisis in the spotlight. The reality of the situation is that life in eastern Congo is not just hard; conditions there are critical. Homes and land have become battlefields. Children born during the crisis know nothing but war. Shelter, food and water are in short supply.
MSF is increasing its emergency response in the region to cope with the deteriorating situation. It is currently working in Goma and other parts of North and South Kivu including Rutshuru, Kibati, Kirotshe, Kiwanja, Buhimba, Masisi, Kitchanga, Mweso, Nyanzale, Kayna, Bukavu, Minova and Kalonge.
MSF remains very concerned about the many people still on the move, continually fleeing the ongoing fighting. Many of the displaced and local residents continue to be in urgent need of food, clean water, healthcare and basic items such as blankets, hygiene kits and shelter materials. In addition, cholera cases are being reported in more and different locations than usual. The recent fighting has led to an increase in the number of cholera patients.
Risk factors include poor sanitation, lack of clean water, the constant movement of the population, and crowded conditions in displaced camps. The Condition: Critical website is available in English, French, Dutch, German, Spanish and Italian. Press launches will take place around the world on November 20 in a number of major cities including Johannesburg, Paris, Nairobi, and London.