Harrisonburg Woman from Doctors Without Borders Shares Her Story
The conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is believed to be the deadliest war since World War II. One area woman has seen the tragic effects firsthand.
Emily Cavan Lynch spoke to NBC29 while helping her mother unload the dishwasher, but it wasn't a typical Friday for the Harrisonburg native.
On any given day, Lynch is working in war-torn, disaster-stricken countries like Rwanda and Haiti. The aid worker just finished up a year in the Democratic Republic of Congo, formerly Zaire, where she was working for Doctors without Borders.
It's an organization that responds to emergency situations, but also chronic emergencies like the war in the Congo.
"There's such little medical infrastructure and otherwise that they consider this to be a serious, serious situation," Lynch said.
Lynch spent the first four months traveling the Congo River, helping to organize a major measles vaccination campaign. She spent the rest of the year in eastern Congo, visiting the hospitals of north and south Kivu, documenting the work of medical teams treating victims of war and violence.
"One little girl who was four years old and just cute as a button and she was wearing a 101 Dalmatians jumper," explained Lynch. "She'd been hit with a machete, the sharp end of a machete, in her shoulder and in her head and in her arm where she was trying to protect herself.
The Congo has been warring for nearly two decades, and millions have died. But Lynch says it's not a war like people imagine, two armed groups fighting one another. It's rather a war against the people and, Lynch says, it's gotten worse.
"Since April, the conflict has really taken off again and the situation has descended into a true humanitarian crisis at this point," Lynch said. "More than an estimated 700,000 people fleeing their homes and literally running for their lives."
Lynch says the greatest devastation is seeing the power of hatred.
"This idea that someone's hatred has resulted in this, has done this to somebody, it's so much violence and sadness," Lynch said. "And people care—we all care—but what are you supposed to do about it?"
In a place that seems a million miles away, the dedicated humanitarian believes the answer is close to home.
"If we are more accountable to each other and better to each other where we are with the capacities that we have, I think that changes the world," Lynch said.
Lynch works independently as a photographer and documented her time in the Congo with a series of pictures titled, "I'm Still Here."