Photostory: Surviving Congo

14 Nov 2013
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Democratic Republic of Congo

Around 50,000 people fleeing terrifying violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have now found themselves living in horrendous conditions.

The refugees are now living in a makeshift camp in Bulengo, near Goma in North Kivu province. Some have been there for over a year.

Aid in the camp is largely insufficient and Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) is one of the few organisations working regularly there.

At the end of September 2013, photographer Giulio Di Sturco visited Bulengo to document the daily life and conditions of people living on the brink.

Cecile (all names have been changed) fled Kashuga with her five children due to violence between armed groups. She now lives in Bulengo, a makeshift camp for displaced people near Goma.

The daily living conditions in the camp are very precarious. People live and sleep on rocky volcanic ground.

Cecile and her children have no roof to protect themselves against the rain. They arrived after the last distribution of plastic sheeting, which happened in December 2012.

Like Cecile, around 50,000 people, live in Bulengo. The humanitarian aid provided to them is massively insufficient.

Due to the lack of assistance, the displaced are building makeshift shelters with what they can find: wood, branches and pieces of scrap plastic.

People fetch water at waterpoints inside the makeshift camp to drink, wash clothes and bathe.

The food distributions are problematic and infrequent. They take place every six to eight weeks, although their rations only cover a period of two weeks.

To survive, women often have to leave the security of the camp to collect firewood in the forest which they will go on to sell at the market. There are very few options to buy food, making their situation even more precarious with the insufficient distribution of food. By leaving the camp to collect firewood, the women expose themselves to violence. This is a very high price to pay for half a dollar a day.

Nicia left home in Rutshuru with her daughter Sabrina after her husband was killed. On their journey to reach Bulengo, Nicia and Sabrina were both raped by an armed group they crossed paths with in the forest. Sabrina became pregnant and Arrielle was born. One morning Sabrina was raped again in the forest while collecting firewood. She later found out that she was pregnant again.

Cecile goes to the MSF clinic in Bulengo because her children are constantly sick due to the precarious living conditions. Since the beginning of the year, MSF has provided more than 16,000 consultations in the camp mainly for respiratory infections and diarrhoea.

Find out more about MSF's work in the Democratic Republic of Congo