01 June, 2009


A story of the Congo to start off today:

I grew up in Washington, D.C., in a country of laws. Trying to intimidate the police there would have been as foolish and futile as it was dangerous. But here (and elsewhere in sub-Saharan Africa), I often found I needed to bluster and blandish to get past obstructive men of the state. There was at times no other way to get by. In the end I begrudgingly sympathized with these fellows, who were, especially in the Congo, usually ill-paid (or not paid), badly trained and worse equipped, and stationed far from home. Their country’s violent past had shaped them, their poverty disposed them to corruption.

And another story, this time of a child, a 3-year old, “With a smile that charms all who meet her and a personality that by far out sizes her toddler frame.”

This child has HIV, as does her mother, Nsimire. Nsimire, who at my age has been raped twice by militias in the conflict, Nsimire who sits in the Panzi hospital with a fistula that cannot be fully treated. Both of them have HIV, another injustice from one of the men who raped and abused Nsimire. They have nowhere to go when they leave Panzi later in June. Their futures are bleak at best, unknown at worse. And what happens when Nsimire dies? What is to come of her daughter, her lovely daughter with her beautiful smile?

In Congo, the estimated number of children (ages 0-15) living with HIV/AIDS in 2007 was 37,000 - 52,000. About 90 percent of these children are infected through mother-to-child transmission. The overall prevalence of HIV in Congo in 2008 was estimated at 4.1 percent. Unfortunately, Nsimire and Esperance did not have access to adequate health care. Had Nsimire been diagnosed and treated early on, the chances of her transmission of the virus to her daughter would have only been 2 percent. (emphasis added)

How many more women and children, boys and men, have to suffer in this conflict? How many more times does a woman have to be violated? A boy taken stolen into an army, a husband forced to watch his family’s disgrace?

How much longer will we focus on a conflict one country away – and forget the 5.5 million people who have died? How long will we deny our role in this – in our cell phones, computers, iPods, etc? That our demand, or dollars, our “need” for the newest, shiniest, fastest, is partially to blame?

When will be meek, wounded, silenced become more important than the powerful, the armed, a currency?

How much longer? How many more?

When will we do something to stop this?