In pictures: a road in the DRC
On 21st November, the Democratic Republic of the Congo was declared free of Ebola. It was a rare piece of good news from a country that has sadly become known for poverty, hunger, disease and violence. Six days after the declaration, Anna Ridout and Eleanor Farmer of Oxfam went to meet people on the dirt road that leads to the town of Rubaya, North Kivu, to find out how they are surviving in a time of upheaval and conflict. In issue #17 of Delayed Gratification, we published some of their portraits along with the stories behind them.
“We wanted to know more about the streams of people walking huge distances and carrying the most extraordinary things with them,” says Ridout. “Almost every bundle of produce came with a story and everyone’s persistent physical exertion was echoed by their inner strength to survive.”
Here are some highlights from Matthew Lee’s interview with Anna Ridout. Photographs by Eleanor Farmer.
“Maombie left school when she was 14 because she didn’t have enough money to keep going. Only two of her 12 siblings are receiving an education. School is expensive and many are making the tough decision to spend money on food instead. Their children have to drop out when they run out of cash or when they flee fighting. Maombie was going to sell vegetables at the market in Rubaya and does this walk every day. She would make around $3 selling her goods but said she would be “taxed” along the way. Many face illegal “taxes” enforced by rebel groups or sometimes the army. Different armed groups extort goods or money from traders and farmers, or loot their fields. People put themselves at risk just by carrying valuable goods in order to feed their families. It may be a disincentive to work for some but those we met travelled despite the dangers. Sometimes soldiers or rebels ask people to carry goods for them and they’ve got no choice but to do it.”
“Mumburi had had his guitar strung in town – he plays gospel music in his local church and said that he loves to ‘dance and sing for my Lord’. He told me that he does the walk between Rubaya and the market twice a week to sell bread, milk and doughnuts but that business is not good because of the conflict in the area. He earns around 10,000 Congolese francs (about $10) a week, which is above average.”
“Zawadi fled her home with her husband and three children when a rebel group attacked, chasing them from their village at gunpoint. They spent two nights at another village on their way here and are living in a temporary hut made of wood and leaves. When we met Zawadi, she had spent the week carrying vegetables and goods for people and told us that her back and neck hurt. Despite her problems, she had a positive outlook. ‘Even though life is what it is, my heart is at peace,’ she said. ‘If Congo was at peace like my heart is at peace, I could grow food because we would have land and we could save a little. We would be able to start a small business’.”
To read the full feature, you can purchase issue #17 of Delayed Gratification in our shop.
Anna and Eleanor travelled to the DRC with Oxfam, whose Strength to Survive appeal focuses on the Democratic Republic of the Congo and 30 other countries, and aims to “help people to prepare for the worst, survive when it happens and come back stronger.”
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