We are now in San Diego, the smallest of the cities on this tour, and also the last one. Time has passed by very quickly, as it often does when you are enjoying yourself, and now the end is near. In a way, I'm happy this is the last city. The field is calling me back. I've been talking for almost a month about my experiences in the field, which makes me long to go back out there even more.
There are so many stories I would like to share with my groups when I take them through the exhibit, but my time is limited.
I can tell people about the huge masses of internally displaced people (IDPs) I saw in Congo, waiting for food because they had not received a food distribution in months. I can tell them about the latrines in one of these camps that were overflowing into the river just behind it, a river where the people gathered their water. And we found out about this because we had received an increase of diarrhea cases in the hospital. I can try to explain what it means when you are too afraid at night to leave your home, so sometimes pregnant women with complications during delivery come nearly dead to the hospital because they will only leave in the morning.
But how can I explain the real fear of these internally displaced people? How do I tell the groups that women in Congo asked us for female condoms to prevent HIV in case of rape when they went out to work in the fields? If they were raped, at least they would not get infected or pregnant. But these are extreme measures. And, in my opinion, it is hard to communicate this kind of fear to people in the US.
How can I explain how these people have to live, day after day? Just surviving takes immense effort.. I will always remember the grandmother who lost her 15-year-old daughter two days after the daughter delivered a baby. Since she was a widow and had three young children herself, she couldn't take care of her grandchild. She had to give up her only connection with her daughter in order to give her own children a chance to survive. Initially, the grandmother told me I could take the child home to Europe, which made my heart break. How could she let this child go? But if she wasn't doing work every day, there was no food on the table for her children. So the baby was adopted by another refugee mother who lost a child the year before.
And now, the Congolese people in North Kivu, where I was working, are being chased away again. People killed, displaced, and suffering from outbreaks of cholera, incredibly huge numbers of wounded people. For them, and for all the 42 million uprooted by war who we are talking about, the end has not yet come.