Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) has launched a new initiative called Condition: Critical aimed at raising awareness of the situation in eastern Congo.
The site has an incredibly moving slideshow with audio from the field and an informative narration. As a father it is hard to watch. I used to have thicker skin when I was in the field with MSF but all that changed with the birth of my son.
DRC is home to 80% of the world's coltan reserves
I first heard about coltan on The News Hour with Jim Lehrer. Here is a podcast of the story. The mineral is a key source of revenue for the warring factions and is critical in the manufacture of laptops, mobile phones and digital cameras. Here is an excerpt from a BBC article about ‘blood tantalum’:
It is a far cry from the drama of the “No blood on my cell phone” campaign that a group of NGOs and religious communities have launched in Europe to lobby for an embargo on so called “blood tantalum”, the colombo-tantalite ore that comes from the war zones in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Tantalum is essential in the manufacture of electrical components known as pinhead capacitors.
These regulate voltage and store energy in mobile phones, tens of millions of which have been sold in the past few years.
The European lobby groups, like the regional analysts, say that coltan production is fuelling the war in Congo.
And here is an excellent video on the subject:
I am not sure if the iPhone contains Congolese coltan but here is Apple’s Supplier Code of Conduct which, while tightly worded, does not specifically mention the location or the mineral.
UPDATE: WFP Peter posted almost the exact same story over at The Road to the Horizon three days in advance of my own. There must be something in the wind.
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I have been following the news coming out of the Congo for some time but just came across this Economist article which provides a good overview of the situation. From the article:
Another humanitarian disaster is unfolding in eastern Congo
THE war that raged in the Democratic Republic of Congo, mostly in the east of the country, between 1998 and 2003, claimed millions of lives and sucked in plundering armies from Rwanda, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia. The scale of the misery caused by that conflict—and the importance of Congo’s massive mineral wealth—explains the anxiety among ordinary Congolese, diplomats, aid workers and others, following the advance this week of a Tutsi rebel army towards the town of Goma in eastern Congo. If Congo falls apart again, the humanitarian cost would be enormous.
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