A website by Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières
Burundi: "In Another Life"
By Tracy Chevalier
© Tom Craig
Josephine is the last woman I interview before I leave Burundi, and she abruptly enlarges the picture I have been focusing on all week by refusing to engage with the trauma of her rape. I ask her at last which has affected her life more, the rape or the war. "The war, of course," she responds promptly, "for it is still affecting me." She gestures at the nothingness around her. She is polite with her answer but I feel naïve to have asked such a question. The rape at least gave her a son, the one concrete, positive thing in her life. "He is my future," she says, much more concerned about him than any possible future husband.
When Tom suggests that she cover her face with her hands to preserve her anonymity for the photos, Josephine thinks for a moment, then reaches up and pulls the polka-dotted scarf from her hair and winds it around her face, leaving one eye exposed. It is a confident gesture worthy of a fashion shoot; in another life, with her bee-stung lips and her self-possession, Josephine might have been a model. In another life, she might have been many things. She is here, though, and her hand-to-mouth existence is likely to be punctuated by hunger, hardship, and loss until she at last loses her own life. She stands in the doorway holding her baby and watching us go, and I feel I have lost her already.
Uzbekistan: "Disco Shoes and a Missing Sea"
By Danny Boyle
© Tom Craig
Asbestos is everywhere: in the corrugated roofs, and wrapped around the oil pipes that feed the Stalinist housing. Plenty of high-rises here but none that you'd care to step into. You can see the asbestos shredding and tearing in the wind, as people hang carpets outside to air.
It is here, in Nukus, that MSF is daring to do what few will contemplate in such a deprived setting. Rather than go on treating patients with drugs that donÕt work, MSF has set up a pilot program for the treatment of multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis. It is one of only a handful of its kind in the world.
Many would say multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis is too expensive to treat in this poverty-stricken area. Treatment is lengthy and expensive even by Western standards. And we are, after all, in the middle of the desert. But MSF doctors want to give these patients a chance and prove that, even in the middle of nowhere, lives should and can be saved.
But it's tough. Unlike normal TB, the multi-drug-resistant strain requires eighteen months of constant pill popping, half of which is spent in the hospital. Patients feel nauseous and risk going blind. And there's no guarantee they'll even pull through.
I'm standing in a room of the MDRTB clinic, where the most vulnerable cases are. Karin reminds us to keep our masks on at all times. It's easier than you think to forget.
Armenia: "Paradise Lost"
By DBC Pierre
© Tom Craig
In one room just big enough for a single bed, a small table, and a dresser, sits a woman called Hamest. Three children sit with her. They are refugees. They fled Azerbaijan fifteen years ago. The building is a refugee hostel. A handful of families are camped there still, waiting for a change in their fortunes.
And there's something more: a curiousness, an unexpectedness in the makeup of the family's features and in their manner. The boy has a strangely elongated face and a detached, doleful gaze. Then the father arrives and bids us welcome. And there's something unusual about him too, behind his beard and in his eyes.
Hamest and her husband are mentally retarded. So are all their children. And their life's routine after the door closes behind us is one of unthinkable abuse. Hamest's husband often trades their bread for vodka and drinks with other men in the building, often in that tiny room. He regularly beats Hamest, and there is reason to suspect her daughters suffer sexual abuse at the hands of the men. Hamest's mother is dead, and she has lost all contact with the family she knew when she fled Baku, Azerbaijan's capital, in 1990. She is utterly powerless.