ABC Nightline Covers Effects of War in Eastern Congo
In a five-part-series called "Heart of Darkness" starting Friday, September 7, ABC's Nightline with Ted Koppel looks at the three-year war in the Democratic Republic of Congo and its devastating effects on the civilian population.
Koppel and his crew spent two weeks in eastern Congo in July with the International Rescue Committee, gathering information, interviews and footage. The ABC crew visited a number of the remote areas where the IRC is assisting tens of thousands of people who have been displaced by the crisis.
According to an Associated Press preview of the series, the first program opens with an "extraordinary" apology by Koppel from both his program and his profession. Citing the death toll from the IRC's recent mortality survey in Congo, Koppel says few Americans know about the deaths of up to 2.5 million people in eastern Congo over the past three years and even fewer no why. "These are events you should have heard about on Nightline years ago," Koppel says.
The Associated Press calls the series "a heartbreaking, harrowing start in shining a light on the region's tragedy."
It was the shocking death toll in Congo, uncovered by the IRC's mortality research, that triggered ABC's interest in covering the crisis. IRC Director of Health Policy Les Roberts, who led the study, was interviewed by ABC for an online companion story posted here on ABC's web site.
"At this point, this war is likely to be the world's deadliest conflict since World War II," says Dr. Roberts.
His research found that of the 2.5 million people who have died has a result of the conflict, 350,000 had died from the violence. The rest died from preventable disease and starvation.
"When soldiers and guerrillas attacked, people would flee their villages and seek refuge in the forest without food, water and blankets for many weeks at a time," Roberts explains. "They died of hunger or run-of-the-mill things like malaria and diarrhea. And for those who have managed to emerge from their hiding places, few can find treatment for these basic diseases because the health system is in shambles."
Sadly, it is the children who are perishing at the highest rates. In the district of Kalemie, the IRC team discovered that three of every four children were dying before the age of two.
"This tragedy has unfolded with very very little attention from the world," Roberts recently told ABC News. "Things are not hopeless, but we have to get assistance to this country right away."
ABC's "Heart of Darkness" begins Friday September 7 and continues the following Tuesday through Thursday, September 11-14 at 11:30pm ET.