The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is one of the richest countries in the world in terms of raw mineral wealth, with diamonds, copper, crude oil, cobalt, gold, uranium and coltan. In fact, these vast resources are the cause of the struggle for power within and outside Congo. In recent years, coltan has been at the center of the fight since this precious ore is a key element in cell phones, computer chips, nuclear reactors and PlayStations. (While there is no coltan in Rwanda, it is estimated that the Rwandan army made $20 million per month mining coltan in 2000.)

The majority of its people, though, live in miserable conditions. Since 1998, the war between the Congolese government and Rwanda and Ugandan-backed rebels has left an estimated three and a half million people dead, and hundreds of thousands displaced.

In June 2005, Francesco Zizola traveled throughout the Democratic Republic of Congo. The portraits included in this portfolio focus on women – the silent victims of the ongoing conflict in the DRC; victims of war, famine and disease. Women who are malnourished, suffering from sleeping sickness, AIDS and victims of sexual violence – a weapon used by both sides against the civilian population in the DRC. In a traditional society like the DRC, the enormous amount of stigma associated with rape effects not only the victim, but also her children, her husband and her family.

DRC, June 2005. N., 19 years old. Sex worker. "I work as a prostitute for four years now, because I need the money. My family knows what I do and says nothing. I am together with my love (pimp) for seven years already, even before beginning this wor
Isangi, DRC, June 2005, D. Sleeping sickness victim, An outbreak of trypanosomiasis, sleeping sickness, transmitted to humans by the bite of a tsetse fly is reaching epidemic proportions in some parts of the DRC.
DRC, June 2005. T. , 25 years old, displaced, suffering from tuberculosis and malnutrition. "I escaped from our town in March because of the fighting between Mai-Mai and the army. We hid in the bush for over a month. We escaped with some belongings, some
DRC, June 2005, N., Sex worker.
DRC, June 2005, B., 13 years old. Sex worker.
DRC, June 2005. B. 24 years old, married, six months pregnant and HIV-positive.
DRC, June 2005, O., 36 years old, two children, widowed and then abandoned by second husband, raped by two soldiers. (testimony available)
DRC, June 2005. C., 34 years old, widowed, four children, gang raped by six soldiers. (testimony available)
DRC, June 2005. Mother of D., 2 years old.
DRC, June 2005. M., 17 years old. Former student, held hostage and raped by a soldier for two years. One day on my way home from school, a soldier stopped me and forced me to go to his home. I was kept hostage for two years. My male relatives tried to
DRC, June 2005. M., raped by a soldier when she was 3 months pregnant. "In April, I was coming to the health center with my three sisters. Halfway there, we were stopped by an armed soldier. He grabbed me and forced me into the bush and raped me. I was th