In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) most people live on 20 cents a day. Decades of conflict, limited access to health care and the prevalence of sexual violence focused on women and children have caused horrific suffering. As a result, DRC has one of the highest maternal child mortality rates (one in thirteen women die during child birth), and has the fifth highest under-five mortality rate in the world. Many women suffer from birth related injuries caused by prolonged or obstructed labor. Prolonged labor often leads to the loss of the baby, or to other complications including the formation of a fistula. A fistula is a hole that develops between bladder and/or rectum and the birth canal. Without surgical intervention, urine and feces flow through the fistula, causing deleterious conditions such as incontinence, infection which ultimately causes social isolation.
HEAL Africa hospital in Goma, DRC, provides comprehensive medical and psychological care, and social support for this vulnerable population. After surgery and rehabilitation, the program continues to follow women and helps them reconnect with their families. HEAL Africa provides access to literacy and vocational training as well as micro-loans to help women can rebuild their lives.
The following images are a progression of moments captured of the courageous women I lived among, provided care to, and became an advocate for while a resident in The Democratic Republic of Congo from Spring 2009 through Summer 2012. The roles I had the privilege to play over the course of three years submersed in their culture—Rehabilitation Coordinator at HEAL Africa, clinician, educator and photographer—provided me with a lens of another kind. I developed a deep understanding that the women I was photographing are severely misunderstood both within their societies and throughout the world. These images are my way of telling their rich and diverse stories; of who they are, what they’ve endured and ultimately, all that they deserve.
Loran Hollander the photographer emerged from over a decade spent as a physical therapist and community educator in under-resourced communities of developing nations. The women Loran views through her camera’s lens are not seen just with her eyes. Submersed as a resident in The Democratic Republic of Congo community of Goma for three years, healing as a clinician to women including those suffering from obstetric fistula, and training care providers as the Rehabilitation Coordinator at HEAL Africa Hospital there all factor in to what Loran captures artistically. With a deep understanding that the women she photographs are misunderstood both within their societies and throughout the world, she owns the obligation to tell their diverse stories through her images; of who they are, what they’ve courageously endured and ultimately, all that they deserve.
A full time physical therapist at Laguna Honda Rehabilitation Center in San Francisco, Loran is also photographer and physical therapist for the humanitarian organization Women’s ACTION Initiative. As part of the team’s current project based in DR Congo she’s creating a documentary project that promotes training and education on obstetric fistula and the critical role of rehabilitation
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International Pediatric Outreach Project
HEAL Africa Hospital
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