Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo, April 27-28, 2020. With schools closed during Congo’s period of confinement, and the city implementing regular power cuts, my 13-year-old sister Marie studies at home by the light of a mobile phone. © Arlette Bashizi for Fondation Carmignac

Goma in the dark

Goma, April 30, 2020
Reading time: 5 min

We have a lot of power cuts in Goma. We’re used to it, but it still makes life difficult, especially at night, and even more now that we’re at home all day. No electricity means we can’t charge our phones or laptops, watch TV or use Internet. Goma is close to the equator so it’s dark from 6pm until 6am almost every day. It’s easy to get bored in the evenings.
Goma, République démocratique du Congo, 27-28 avril 2020. Les écoles étant fermées pendant la période de confinement, et vu la régularité des coupures de courant dans la ville, ma petite sœur de 13 ans étudie à la maison en s’aidant de la torche d’un téléphone. © Arlette Bashizi pour la Fondation Carmignac
Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo, April 27-28 2020. With schools closed during Congo’s period of confinement, and the city implementing regular power cuts, my 13-year-old sister Marie studies at home by the light of a mobile phone. © Arlette Bashizi for Fondation Carmignac

The first two pictures here were taken on Monday and Tuesday nights this week while my 13-year-old sister Marie was studying during the power cuts. Marie loves mathematics and wants to be a businesswoman. While she’s waiting for schools to reopen she’s continuing to study at home, even when we have no electricity. Here she was working by the light of our mother’s mobile phone.

At my house, we are nine people; my six siblings, my parents, and myself. Usually my father works as a carpenter and my mother sells shoes at the market, but with the confinement, everything has stopped. For a while, my mother was selling shoes in front of our house, but then her stock ran out and there are no more customers. Financially, things are more difficult now. We have to minimize our expenses.

When the first cases of coronavirus were confirmed in Goma in early April, people began to panic. Because of the Ebola epidemic here in eastern Congo, people got scared easily about a new deadly virus.

Goma, République démocratique du Congo, début avril 2020. Trois jours après la confirmation du premier cas de Covid-19 dans cette ville de l’est du Congo, on a commencé à y distribuer du gel désinfectant. Des femmes du quartier de Katoyi, dont les résidents ont un accès difficile à l’eau, se frottent les mains après avoir reçu du gel et des informations sur les bonnes pratiques d’hygiène. © Arlette Bashizi pour la Fondation Carmignac
Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo, early April 2020. Three days after the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Congo’s eastern city, disinfectant started being distributed. These women have wiped their hands with disinfectant and been given information on maintaining proper hygiene in the city’s Katoyi neighborhood, where residents do not have easy access to water. © Arlette Bashizi for Fondation Carmignac
Une femme reçoit du gel dans le quartier de Katoyi, dont les résidents ont un accès difficile à l’eau. © Arlette Bashizi pour la Fondation Carmignac
Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo, early April 2020. This woman lives in the Katoyi neighborhood, where residents do not have easy access to water. © Arlette Bashizi for Fondation Carmignac
Goma, République démocratique du Congo, début avril 2020. Des enfants se lavent les mains dans un orphelinat. © Arlette Bashizi pour la Fondation Carmignac
Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo, early April 2020. Children wash their hands at an orphanage. © Arlette Bashizi for Fondation Carmignac © Arlette Bashizi pour la Fondation Carmignac

Three days after the first locally confirmed case of COVID-19, I went out with a group of young activists from a radio show called Kazia Pale. The activists were visiting people who were especially vulnerable during confinement. We went to a neighborhood called Katoyi, an area that doesn’t have easy access to running water. We met some widows and the activists made sure they had information about the importance of hand washing. They explained that if water was scarce, they could use disinfectant gels instead to protect themselves. The women were grateful that younger people were looking out for them. We also visited an orphanage: there, the activists spent some time explaining the importance of washing hands for 20 seconds.

Now, it’s almost a month later and we are waiting to see what happens. There were five COVID-19 cases confirmed here in North Kivu Province, three of them in Goma. All have recovered. Government officials said they are waiting to lift the confinement, but we don’t know when that will happen or what things will look like when it does. When it comes to this, we’re like everyone else: a little bit in the dark.

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