The city of Goma in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo has been at the heart of a war that has seen millions die and hundred’s of thousands of women and children raped. The psychological impact of sexual violence, witnessing relatives killed, fleeing one’s home is impossible to measure.
In the entire east of the country there is only one psychiatrist working out of a small mental health facility in Goma with very limited capacity.
Most carers of the mentally ill consult their local church leader. With few other alternatives in a region lacking even the most basic health infrastructure, exorcisms are keenly sought after.
12 year old Simba Merci escaped from the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) a week ago after one and a half years as their captive in the bush of northern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Children are often targeted by the LRA and the violence perpetrated sometimes extraordinary. After escaping Simba talked of the constant beatings and random killings and above all the fear – “They beat people up, they kill people and they do unspeakable things. They didn’t give proper reasons why they killed people. They always just said that if you don’t behave we’ll kill you. If you don’t do the things they tell you to do, you know they’ll kill you, just like they kill other people from the group you’re with. They force you to hold a friend with your hands while they kill them. I don’t want that to ever happen again, I don’t want them to come and capture me. Never again, never, never… At night I’m very frightened and these things keep coming back into my head, into my thoughts. I want it all to go away….”
30 year old Serge Nzuya Mbwibwi works as a psychologist for Médécins Sans Frontières in Niangara in northern DRC. The local population are being terrorized by The LRA and it is Serge’s job to support people constantly in fear.