We are witnessing disregard for basic human rights in every continent: restricted access to health care, lack of government transparency, deepened poverty, inadequate financial protection, racial discrimination and increased risk of domestic abuse.
Photographers and photojournalists have submitted material to the Photojournalism Hub’s Third Edition of the Injustices & Inequalities Covid:19 Open Call. The work in this dossier page gives us a powerful insight into human frailty at the hands of injustice and the inequalities being intensified in new and tragic ways during the pandemic. Contributors to this edition have highlighted economic inequalities in Italy, the critical lack of water in an area of the Republic of the Congo and how people in the UK are struggling with lockdown.
These are issues we need to see, reflect upon and action.
Daily Life: Coronavirus Water Woes
Every day, often in the pre-dawn darkness, countless women and children in the eastern Congolese city of Goma set out loaded down with scuffed yellow jerry cans to collect water for their families. The sprawling capital of North Kivu province sits on the rugged volcanic shores of Lake Kivu, a 90-kilometer long, 50-kilometer wide body of water, and one of Africa’s Great Lakes.
Goma is also is a major hub for the world’s second largest United Nations Peacekeeping operation and for hundreds of humanitarian aid organizations that spend millions of dollars monthly on local operations, and yet the city has virtually no running water. Many of the upscale hotels dotted along the city’s scenic waterfront have water delivered by pumps or by trucks.
The rest of the city’s two million inhabitants get their water for drinking, washing, and cooking either directly from the lake or from water sellers who charge up to ten times more than Regideso, the public utility responsible for supplying water in Congo’s urban areas. Charities also distribute water in tanker trucks, but there is never enough and water taken directly from the lake or from other contaminated sources causes frequent outbreaks of cholera and other diseases. Deadly reservoirs of methane and carbon dioxide gases also lurk beneath Lake Kivu’s surface, putting people collecting water at risk of asphyxiation and death. And as Congo contends with both coronavirus and an Ebola epidemic, the lack of access to water, sanitation and hygiene is putting millions of people at greater risk of contracting COVID-19.
Congo passed a law in 2015 making access to water and sanitation a fundamental right guaranteed by the Constitution. It also stipulated that such services ” are not free” and shifted the responsibility for maintaining infrastructure to the provincial level.
Goma’s water woes are a microcosm for the rest of the country. Congo is Africa’s most water-rich country, holding more than half of the continent’s fresh water reserves, but 75% of the country’s 80 million people have no access to safe drinking water and sanitation. This, coupled with poor hygiene, are among the top five risk factors associated with death and disability in the country. The long hours spent waiting for and transporting water also limits the time adults have to earn income or for children to attend school. Congolese women and girls are exposed to physical, sexual, moral and psychological violence during water collection, according to UNICEF.
“We wake up at 9pm, or midnight, or 2am, we don’t sleep,” said Maman Gentille, who was wrapped in a thick blanket for warmth while waiting in the dark at a water point. “There are people who can wait two days without getting any water. And for us women, it’s perilous because we can be raped by bandits and then be abandoned by our husbands.”
Goma’s water system was already dilapidated and leaking before it was further damaged in 2002 when the nearby Nyiragongo volcano erupted and a river of lava oozed through the city, burying entire neighborhoods. Various water projects have been launched since then, but the government’s poor infrastructure and lack of funds means that foreign donors provide nearly 99% of water sector financing in Congo.
“The solution would be for Regideso to supply water into people’s homes for those who can afford it,” said Aziza Bitnu, who operates one of the city’s communal water points. “And those who can’t can always still come to the water points.”
But with little capacity and poor governance, the country relies on outside support. The World Bank’s Urban Water Supply Project is a $190-million initiative to restructure and improve the performance of Regideso. Mercy Corps is also implementing a seven-year UK government-funded program that aims to provide improved access to water, sanitation, and hygiene up to a million people in Goma and Bukavu, a city located at the southern end of Lake Kivu. Such projects span years, however, and don’t meet the immediate needs of Goma residents struggling for clean water.
“They say that water is life, but we don’t have access to it,” said Maman Gentille, still waiting her turn in the darkness. “Yes, it is free but we don’t see how that matters when we don’t get any.”
Daiana Valencia and Celeste Alonso
From January 1 to June 30, 2020, 162 femicides occurred in Argentina. To this scenario of violence was added the “preventive and obligatory social isolation” decreed by the government since March 20, which aggravated the situation. Women victims of gender violence are more exposed during quarantine, since in most cases they live with their aggressor. Until June 30, 82 women were murdered by men, where 78% of the femicides were committed in the victim’s home. In this particular moment, where femicides continue to increase (ONU calls it “the other pandemic”) and the characteristics of isolation aggravate it, many women are unable to isolate themselves from their aggressors.
Covid19 pandemic is a worldwide problem, as are the femicides, particularly in Latin America, which is one of the regions with the highest rates of gender violence. In this project we look at the uncomfortable, focus on the femicide and how isolation affects and increases gender violence and femicide. We are interested in digging into their stories, running the surface of each case and ask ourselves who is this man? where male violence nest when in its greatest degree goes so far as to kill a woman because of her condition as such?
Rueda photos are Daiana Valencia and Celeste Alonso. Both are freelance photojournalists and documentary photographers, based in Buenos Aires Argentina. As collective they deal with gender, social, cultural and current affairs issues. Their first work was in Haiti covering the presidential campaign of candidate Maryse Narcisse in the October 2015 elections. They have published in media such as El Pais de España, Cosecha Roja, Revista Crisis, El Grito del Sur, Bex Magazine and British Journal of Photography. They work “30000” was selected and exhibited at the Haroldo Conti Cultural Centre of Memory,2017. Argentina In October 2017 they were selected to participate in the Photographic Brigades of the FIFV (Valparaiso Photography Festival) where they developed the work “Diversidadxs” which was exhibited in the Plaza La Victoria in Valparaiso, Chile. Images of different works are part of the book “Ser mujer Latinoamericana”, Mexico 2018. They won the best portfolio in the Biennial of Documentary Photography in Tucumán, Argentina 2018. They participated in the collective exhibition organized by House of Girls, Berlin, Germany 2018. They won third place in the “Photographic Memory: Migration and Human Rights in South America” contest, December 2018. Part of their work ” Morenada porteña” was published by World Press Photo and AJ Español in 2019. As a collective they are part of the Foto-Feminas and WomenPhotography platform.
Daiana Valencia and Celeste Alonso
Since the beginning of the spread of the Corona virus and the imposition of curfews in Egypt, people have started to restore old habits, discover new ones, or change their old habits. Some people have become closer to their families by spending a lot of time together watching TV , cooking , conversing, laughing. This was not their usual way of life. This is happening because people are in lock down and have more time which they can use to spend with their families and getting away from feeling of depression .. It is a time like a truce.
People have started to discover themselves, what have they done , and what will they do next. They also invest their time indoor in learning new things, practising a new sport or content themselves in relaxing activities such as spending their time playing or chatting with friends through social media and video.
Solidarity in Quarticciolo
Daniele Napolitano (Photography) and Serena Chiodo (Article)
“Our effort should be an exception, instead we realize that it is and will be normal,” says Pietro Vicari, a member of the Quarticciolo neighbourhood committee. Thirty years old, he lives in a six-storey building, once the Casa del fascio, then the police headquarters. Now it’s a residential occupation, on the facade of which stands a huge mural of Blu. It stands out in the center of Quarticciolo, a neighborhood on the eastern outskirts of Rome. Blocks of council houses one in line with the other for about six thousand inhabitants, many of whom have been waiting for a council house for years: in the meantime they make do as they can, often in cellars and in overcrowded conditions. The unemployment rate is very high compared to central areas of the city, as is the school drop-out rate. Speaking of abandonment, the role of the institutions comes to mind: totally absent. A lack that manifested itself in all its seriousness during the health emergency linked to Covid-19.
The emergency within the emergency
“I used to do a lot of jobs before, all in black. Now, of course, I’m stuck”: so says Christian, 18 years old, who lives in an occupied house: “We didn’t receive the vouchers that were supposed to arrive from the city hall. There were days when my girlfriend and I looked at each other wondering, “What are we gonna eat tomorrow?”. Anna, a 60-year-old Ukrainian woman, echoes him. “I was working in a hotel, with a contract renewed month after month. Obviously, since March the hotel hasn’t worked, so neither have I. Since I don’t have a real contract, I have no support: I had to start using my savings”. These situations are common to many people in the neighbourhood, who have received little or nothing from the institutions: some have received the 600 euro bonus – which for rent, bills, expenses end very soon, even more if you have children – or the redundancy fund, with the delays that have united the whole country. Many saw nothing coming, to be workers without a contract or unemployed, and from one day to the next they were left without any source of income. Municipal spending vouchers were delivered partially and with very serious delays. The mantra repeated by commercials, institutional communications and social messages – “stay at home, everything will be fine” – shattered over the concrete experience of a country in difficulty and over problems that have lasted for years.
“Luckily there are volunteers who distribute the boxes,” says Anna, referring to those who immediately thought about how to move in the context of the pandemic so as not to leave anyone alone: the members of the neighbourhood Committee. Faced with the increasingly heavy institutional absence, in fact, here – as in other districts of the capital – the difference was made by the citizens, self-organized to put into practice forms of solidarity and self-determination important when not essential.
From the first week of lockdown, from the window on the sixth floor of the building in the centre of the square came music, words of support and appeals to the sense of community and the need to be active protagonists of one’s daily life. This was soon accompanied by material support, with the distribution of masks, disinfectant gel, gloves: “A lady brought us masks sewn by herself, a neighbor gave us a lot of amuchina and we distributed it. But we immediately realized that the need for food was predominant,” explains Vicari. So, every Tuesday and Saturday, in front of the Red Lab – the social centre on the ground floor of the former police headquarters – boxes of fruit, vegetables, pasta and bread were distributed for two months: products collected thanks to the support of private individuals, shopkeepers, farms and producers. 40 kg of oranges arrived from the farmers of Rosarno. “It is clear, however, that you don’t just live on this: there are people who don’t have the money to charge their mobile phones for distance learning for their children, or to repair the car to go to work.”
From the institutions nothing came, except requests for help: the volunteers were contacted to bring groceries to people in difficulty. “We went there, of course. But we have to think about a city with drones, police and military in all the streets, where there is no one to do the shopping for the elderly,” commented the members of the Committee, who alongside the necessary support for people – over a hundred families assisted – has always made a strong complaint about the institutional absence, even with targeted actions: “These needs cannot be discharged to the volunteers”, they said on 8 May, while symbolically unloading the empty boxes in front of the local Town Hall, and then participating, together with other groups of volunteers active in the capital, in the demonstration in Campidoglio square, which called for the distribution of shopping vouchers. “For months politicians have been announcing measures to support families: measures that simply do not exist,” they denounced, urging politicians to quickly find the means to act. Neither the local administration nor the city council gave concrete answers, and once again the neighbourhood had to organise itself.
“From the suburn to the suburn”. “Dalla borgata per la borgata”.
After all, self-organisation has for years been the basis for the management of the neighbourhood, which has never been the subject of institutional accountability. From this absence, a group of young people decided to take over the situation, initially with the recovery in full autonomy of the boiler room of a building of the Ater – Aziende Territoriali per l’Edilizia Residenziale – in a state of neglect for over twenty years: since 2016 it is open to the neighborhood as a popular gym. “In 2015 we occupied these spaces to denounce the absence of activity in the neighborhood,” explains Emanuele Agati, thirty years old, member of the Committee and boxing coach in the gym. “We pay particular attention to the needs of youth groups, even those who do not train spend the afternoon in the gym to see the others. There’s nothing else in the neighborhood”. In the meantime, two young people have become competitive boxers, finding their own value in sport. One of them is Amr Abdalla. Nineteen years old, he voluntarily participated in the distribution of the boxes: “I am very happy to help. I see a lot of people in trouble, and not only during quarantine. And I am proud of this activity”.
At the beginning of this year, the gym finally received the official assignment from the Ater, who recognized its value for the neighborhood. In the meantime, in recent years, actions have multiplied around sport: a self-managed after-school, attended by about forty children, workshops in schools focused on the recovery of the anti-fascist historical memory of the area, and the creation of the Committee to claim the rights of citizens, especially those, many, in housing emergency. Everything happens with a constant attention to the sense of community and aggregation: since 2016 every year the square is animated by a neighborhood party totally self-managed and accessible to all. Also this year it took place, despite the Covid-19: indeed, just this year it was felt even more necessary.
And so, while after the acute phase of the health emergency, institutional policy insisted on economic recovery, the Quarticciolo found a way to be together. Because it is in a moment of crisis that a community aware, participated, sensitive to the needs of all responds: with masks and food, but also sociality and sharing. All sides of the same picture, made up of knowledge and care of the territory.
Serena: Serena Chiodo born in 1984 in Carate Brianza (MI). Cultural mediator, she got a master’s degree in Communication and Social Sciences focused on migration, than specialized in Communication and International Relations and Applied Social Sciences. She has been working for years in the field of migration and human rights protection, especially in advocacy, research and communication activities. She is a freelance journalist currently based in Rome, focussed on migration, human rights and social issues.
Children’s Meals in Times of Coronavirus
“Have your family book in hand,” shouts a policeman in front of the Telepizza on Abrantes Street. A patrol is monitoring that parents who go for their children’s meals maintain the separation recommended by health authorities. Outside, about 15 parents queue with the family book or a document that accredits the name of their children.
In front of a personal Telepizza table, they do what they can in the face of the avalanche of names of different nationals that they are told. Many are not on the charts and have to wait for second confirmations. These lists are the ones that the schools send about 11,500 students who have a reduced price in the school canteens for belonging to families that receive the Minimum Insertion Income (RMI). It is an agreement that the Community of Madrid reached with the companies Telepizza and Rodilla to supply the meals.
Rocío, a neighbor of the Carabanchel neighborhood and with a daughter in her care, who lives in the San Isidro area, arrives on her scooter at the Telepizza on Abrantes street at 12:30 p.m., time and place that has been assigned to her, at about 4Km from her home. In front of her are other fathers and mothers who the police are trying to organize. Two mothers have had to turn around because they were not on the lists, one of them is shouting “Shame, shame”.
The Community of Madrid is paying 5 euros for each meal to these companies, about 60,000 euros a day in total, however, the cost is being lower because since it began to distribute this Wednesday, only about 2,000 meals were collected by parents and about 3,000 this Friday. The main issue is the organisation of the lists in which not much of the children and the distance appear. A family member can only go individually from Monday to Friday between 12 am and 3 pm to collect the food at the assigned establishment. Many parents fear being fined and others see insufficient food being offered.
“I’m going to show you what the menu is today,” a mother in Abrantes complained this Friday. A small pizza, three Nuggets, and a drink, which would correspond to the school meals 3 offered there, but without salad. Rocío’s turn comes, she signs on a list and takes the food after almost an hour of waiting. When arriving home, the girl without much enthusiasm eats the first slice of pizza.
These meals that are received by the minors in the most vulnerable situation are made up of pizzas, hamburgers, salads, and nuggets for the children who receive it from Telepizza, and for the students who get their food from Rodilla to eat, at their main meal of the day, sandwiches, salad and snacks, accompanied by two pieces of fruit.
At the Telepizza de San Fermín in Usera, there is a municipal police car on patrol. The relatives who are queuing begin to say that “yesterday was impossible to collect the food because nobody was on the lists,” says a father of three children. Today they are and the people who have to leave without the meals are fewer.
Jury, a mother of two children, arrives at 2:30 p.m. to collect only her young son’s meal. She has been luckier than Rocío, she is only two subway stops from Telepizza and she has been given School Meal 3 with salad. When her son arrives home, around 3.30 pm, who is watching television, he says “he already wants to go back to school.”
Two short films Turk made in the first week of the UK lockdown when everybody was ordered to stay inside. The first film is based in a rural location while the second part focuses on London. It is the responses of his own friends and neighbours when they were asked the question ‘When did Covid-19 get real for you?’ . He decided to title it ‘Unprecedented’ as it was a buzz word at the time. He comments, ‘it was everywhere and pretty annoying to be honest! So I thought it fit an annoying and sad situation’.
MANY THANKS TO ALL CONTRIBUTORS
If you have work which highlights the social injustices that are being intensified by Covid-19 please submit your work to the Photojournalism Hub. We will be updating this dossier page on a monthly basis. Submit by August 31st to be included in September’s dossier pages.
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