30 August 2009

Medecins Sans Frontieres DRC

At Santiago de Compostela my bicycle gets parked for 6 weeks while I fly to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to work once more for Medecins Sans Frontieres.

In the east of DRC, close to the Rwandese border, the Congolese army carries out a military offensive. Its aim is to drive the rebel movement FDLR out of their hideout in a national parc. The action leads to massive deplacement of civilians who flee the fighting and pilfering of their villages. 10km behind the frontline Medecins Sans Frontieres supports several rural health centres with drugs, medical materials and therapeutic food to cope with the population influx.

My role is to coordinate the logistics activities - quite a challenging task when there are no real roads, no phones, only feeble electricity and nothing to purchase on the local market. The area we work in features several mines for gold, diamonds as well as coltan (a rare material used for the production of mobile phones, GPS, DVD players, computers etc.). The raw materials are exported with old russian Antonov-12 planes that bring beer, fuel and cheap Chinese consumer goods in return.
I am told that the price of one kilogram of raw coltan is about 3 USD when sold by the miners. The apparent world market price for one kilogram of coltan powder is currently higher than 500 USD!

Just in case you were shocked by news (or films) about blood diamonds - take a good look at your electronics goods and think before you buy your next iPhone just because your old one has a scratch or not the latest software gadgets...

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