Africa’s Forever War

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For much of the last 20 years, the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo has suffered from conflict and instability -- but until recently, the area had appeared to be stabilizing. In 2009, the main rebel army signed peace accords with the Congolese national army -- the FARDC -- and everyone had high hopes that the region would begin transitioning towards peace. But in April, several hundred former rebels defected from the national army and formed a new armed group known as M23. Within months, the M23 conflict had diverted the resources of the national army away from their regular posts throughout the country into fighting on the Ugandan and Rwandan borders. In the vacuum left behind, a series of tit-for-tat massacres and attacks against the population by various armed groups began, and nearly half a million people fled their homes. Millions of people are now trying to survive in desperate conditions, many of whom remain in isolated locations nearly inaccessible to humanitarian organizations. Unfortunately, it looks as if things are only going to get worse. Early on Monday, Nov. 19, rebels approached Goma, the largest city in North Kivu province, and the U.N. pulled its employees out of the country. By Tuesday, the group had taken the airport and the city in a move that, as Anjan Sundaram explains, could re-draw the map of Africa.

Since January 2012, Emily Lynch has traveled around North and South Kivu as a communications officer and as a logistician on a rural measles vaccine campaign for Medecins Sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders (MSF). Here, her photographs provide an inside look into the tragedy and violence that are continuing to plague the population of North and South Kivu, most of whom remain out of sight and out of reach of humanitarian aid.

A 16-year-old girl shows where she was shot through her buttocks and her jaw during an attack by an armed group on her village in North Kivu in May 2012. She walked with her mother and younger brother for three days through the forest to reach safety, arriving in a hospital run by MSF more than a week after she was injured. This was the second time in May that the girl's village was attacked by the armed group.

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A nurse working in a health clinic supported by MSF in South Kivu tests a patient for malaria. This 38-year-old woman and her family fled harassment and frequent  attacks on their village in South Kivu in January 2012; they are now living with a host family in a community in South Kivu that is overwhelmed by the needs of the thousands of displaced, the majority of whom have arrived since May 2012.


A grandmother and her granddaughters prepare dinner in an abandoned building in South Kivu that now houses hundreds of displaced families.


Women prepare to cook on the porch of an abandoned building where, at the time this photograph was taken, more than 500 displaced people were living. Tens of thousands of people in the area remain without adequate food, clean water, or shelter. 


A nurse at a mobile clinic supported by MSF helps a mother prepare a rehydration solution for her young son who, along with severe dehydration, has tested positive for malaria. This family was displaced from their village in 2009 and has been living in a temporary shelter in the area since that time. A few weeks after this photograph was taken, this village was also attacked and the thousands living there fled.

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