DRC: A drop of hope

The scale of the problems that we neglect and the number of victims who will not be reached will endlessly frustrate MSF in DRC. But this makes the care for individuals we do reach - with real assistance and real humanity - all the more meaningful and significant.
MSF volunteers do what they can to pull the world's attention to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Dozens of journalists visit the projects each year and the teams dutifully introduce them to their little corner of suffering. The resulting pictures and words inevitably fail to do justice to the immensity of the tragedy here. Our teams confront the feeling of hopelessness by the provision of assistance and the human contact they establish, but we are also infected by it. The atmosphere is suffocating, says one expatriate who had spoken to a woman whose father had been tortured and then killed. He asked her if she was going to do anything. "If I say anything they will kill my children. If I do anything they wil kill me. There is nothing to do," was her answer. Even though it is one of the largest missions in MSF, the size and breadth of the needs make our interventions seem insignificant. Each time we do intervene, down the road the situation is even worse and we question whether we should go there instead. Some areas are neglected because we cannot reach them for the lack of roads and broken bridges. Other areas we neglect because we cannot convince local fighters to allow humanitarians to work in safety. Some problems go without assistance just because we have decided that we have too much on our plate already. The insignificance of our actions in terms of the fate of the Congo is only counterbalanced by the effect we have on individuals and communities. With the treatment of AIDS in the city of Bukavu, we are not stopping the epidemic, but we will provide meaningful care for people who have been denied care in the past. With the nutritional programs and tuberculosis treatment in Nord-Kivu province, we are providing quality care, which stands in the face of the years of abuse and displacement. The scale of the problems that we neglect and the number of victims who will not be reached will endlessly frustrate MSF in DRC. But this makes the care for individuals we do reach - with real assistance and real humanity - all the more meaningful and significant.