The Democratic Republic of Congo

Photos by Patrick Meinhart

Born in Madrid in 1987, he got his degree in journalism and decided to pursue his photographic formation by enrolling in the MA of Photojournalism and Documentary Photography at the London College of Communication. He is based in Madrid where he collaborates with local agencies while pursuing personal projects. He is currently working on a long-term project documenting mental illness in Eastern Congo and how the ongoing conflict is affecting civilians.

The Democratic Republic of Congo is still recovering from the two wars that torn apart this nation between 1996 and 2001. While the rest of the country tries to look at the future, the East still suffers the consequences of those years by armed rebels born during the wars. In North Kivu, everyone old enough to witness the event since the Rwandan Genocide has nightmares to share. Mental illness is on the rise in a region where little has been done to treat people that have suffered severe traumas: Life-threatening injuries, loss of family members or ending up in refugee camps add to the physical impact war has on a country where life expectancy is 48.
According to the Mental Health Program, 15 million Congolese have mental disorders and lack the resources western countries have. Drugs used in western countries are nowhere to be found in the DRC. Most families are unable to assume the expenses of the treatment, leaving most cases untreated or taken care by NGOs like the Brothers of Charity or Doctors without Borders. Lack of government support isn´t the only obstacle: Mental institutions have to deal with the conception most Congolese coming from rural areas have on mental illness. A conception based on old beliefs and witchcraft where sorcery or demoniac possessions are the source. Cases are brought to traditional healers or praying houses, leaving psychiatric facilities as the last call. North Kivu, a province twice the size of Belgium with over 6 million inhabitants, only has one psychiatric facility.
It has been 12 years since the end of the Second Congo War but its aftermath still remains in the East. Dozens of armed groups keep attacking, looting and raping while mental traumas keep rising in the third largest country in Africa.

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Goma, Norht Kivu.Minister Moise Munyuabumba runs the 8th CEPAC Galilaya Church.

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