The Democratic Republic of Congo is the poorest African nation. From what I have seen and read about the DRC, you can compare it somewhat to Ethiopia in terms of poverty and disease. However, then add a civil war that has lasted on and off again since the 1990s and that is responsible for more than 5 million deaths- the vast majority from disease and starvation. Even though a peace treaty was signed in 2003, bitter conflict has continued to rage in eastern DRC between the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) and the Congolese government troops. While I won't go into a history lesson here, one of the main causes of this war is, ironically, because DRC is a very mineral and diamond rich country with nearly 1 billion dollars in gold exportation alone every year. That money does nothing, however, for the Congolese people as rebel troops continue to exploit the DRC and its citizens for its natural resources. What have the outcomes of the conflict been? As I mentioned before, more than 5 million deaths, an estimated 2-3 million rapes committed against women and children, and boys as young as 5 or 6-years-old forced to become soldiers- for some their initiation is killing their own family members or watching as their family is murdered in front of them. Imagine that for a moment. Because of the continued conflict, nearly 2.5 million Congolese are homeless and an additional 500,000 have become refugees in neighboring countries. And one of the most heartbreaking outcomes is that the DRC is now home to over 5 million orphans (the entire population of Scotland). In fact, the autracities in the DRC are so great that numerous humanitarian groups have listed it as the worst place to live if you're a woman or a child.
- More than half of Congolese people live below the extreme poverty level (living on less than $1 a day), with the vast majority of those living in rural areas.
- The infant mortality rate is nearly 1 in 10
- 1 in every 5 children die before the age of 5
- 15% of children under the age of 18 are orphans
- 700,000 of these children have been orphaned due to the AIDS epidemic
- Many children in the DRC who are orphaned by AIDS face further problems as they are often accused of witchcraft or sorcery in a nation where superstitions are often seen as reality. In fact, nearly all of the children accused of witchcraft are either orphans, disabled or albinos. The vast majority of these are boys (75%).
I'm reminded of the movie Blood Diamond. There's a scene where Danny (Leo DiCaprio) is talking to Maddy (Jennifer Connelly) about the autracities occuring in Africa, namely Sierra Leone. He remarks that "God left this place (Africa) a long time ago." I remember that statement so clearly because it really struck me.
Of course, we know that's not true. God is everywhere. God can be seen in the hands of the humanitarian workers that work diligently to bring aid to war-torn villages. God is in the heart of people like Haregewoin Teferra who fought for the lives of orphans living on the streets in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. God is in the feet of men like Muis Mumbara, once abandoned himself, who- refusing to give up on children accused of witchcraft- walk for miles every day along the streets of Kinshasa, DRC, caring for these homeless and cast out youth. And God is in the face of a child, who the world calls "unwanted", but whom God will never abandon, when he finally finds his "forever family".