Photo Exhibition in Macao Successfully Kicked-off Today

In order to further raise awareness of worldwide humanitarian crises in the Asian region, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) Hong Kong will make its debut in Macao by holding a photo exhibition "Democratic Republic of Congo: The Forgotten War" together with Macao Digital Photography Association and Macau Arts Affair Institute this month. The kick-off ceremony is successfully held in Macao today.

In the summer of 2005, five world-renowned photographers - Ron Haviv, Gary Knight, Antonin Kratochvil, Joachim Ladefoged and James Nachtwey - travelled to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where MSF is running emergency medical programmes for thousands of people affected by the ongoing civil war. The result is the "Democratic Republic of Congo: the forgotten war" photo exhibition tour all over the world.

Dr. Tse Tsz Wah, President of MSF Hong Kong, says that although the DRC has been neglected by the rest of the world, the years-long conflict has plunged the people into misery and suffering. He points out that the life expectancy in the DRC is only 43 years. Some people were killed because of the violence, but the great majority died from preventable diseases. "Through this photo exhibition, we hope that the Macao public would have more understanding of humanitarian work and help to spread our concern to other parts of the world." says Dr. Tse in officiating the kick-off ceremony.

Another officiating guest, Hong Kong artiste Mr. Edmond Leung, joins the ceremony with some tree leaves in his hand. He says that according to what MSF has witnessed, many displaced in the DRC are suffering from malnutrition and most people only manage to have one meal a day at most, usually only consisting of cassava leaves or dried cassava skins.

He also demonstrates how MSF volunteers use the mid-upper arm circumference ("MUAC") to do the rapid assessment and quick identification of malnourished children from 6 months to age of five. There are green, yellow, orange and red zones in the MUAC bracelet. If the bracelet falls into the green zone, the child is okay. Yellow indicates a risk of malnutrition while orange refers to moderate malnutrition and supplementary feeding is needed. If the MUAC shows red, the child is severely malnourished and immediate treatment is needed.

In using the MUAC to show how small the arm circumference of a severely malnourished child can be, Edmond exclaims, "It's just a little bit bigger than a Macao dollar coin! For us who are so lucky to live in prosperous cities like Hong Kong and Macao, it's hard to imagine how an arm of a child can be so tiny!" He hopes people in Macao can spend some time on this photo exhibition and share with their families and friends. "More people concern the plight of these people, higher the chance their situation can be changed," he adds.

Other guests including Mr Sou Chio Fai, Director of Education and Youth Affairs Bureau, Mr. Chu Wai Seng from Macao Historical Archives of Cultural Affairs Bureau, Ms. Fanny Chau Lai Fan from Civic and Municipal Affairs Bureau of Macao SAR Government, and Mr. Deng Qi Guang from World Photographers Association, join hands in fixing the map puzzle of the DRC. Representatives from the organisers of this exhibition including Dr. Tse, Mr. Yen Kuac Fu, President of General Assembly of Macao Digital Photography Association and Mr. Michael Chan, President of Macau Arts Affairs Institute, together with Edmond Leung, then put the headline of the exhibition on the map to call for the public to pay more attention to people living in the DRC and other neglected populations in distress.

After the kick-off ceremony, Ms. Elaine Lau and Ms. Alice Chow coming from Hong Kong continue to share their frontline working experiences with MSF as volunteers. Elaine is a registered nurse in Hong Kong who joined MSF in 1999 and has worked in Sudan, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Indonesia. She recalls an unforgettable memory in an MSF therapeutic feeding centre in Afghanistan and says, "I remember when I saw that little child being taken to our centre by his father, he was so slim that his head was just like a skull without muscles or tissues. The only thing left was his pair of big eyes. We were so worry that he would die in every second. Fortunately, after receiving intensive care for several weeks, he finally left our centre in good shape."

Compared to the malnutrition problem in Afghanistan, what Elaine encountered in Aceh in Indonesia when she joined the emergency relief intervention of MSF after the Asia tsunami was a total different story. She was sent to Meulaboh, one of the towns closest to the epicenter. When she arrived in the first few days soon after the tsunami, she could only see collapsed buildings and rubbles everywhere. Even the hospital was full of mud and water. "We started to treat those who were hurt by the tsunami after cleaning the hospital roughly. There was a new born baby who needed to be put into an incubator. However, in that kind of setting after a disaster, where could we find oxygen? We searched around the hospital, and to our surprise, we managed to find several rusted oxygen cylinders in a corner in the hospital." says Elaine.

Alice Chow, a civil engineer in Hong Kong, is another MSF field volunteer who has worked for MSF in Afghanistan, Ethiopia and Indonesia. As a logistician, Alice says, "Logistics support is of the same importance as medical work in providing assistance to our beneficiaries." She adds with her experiences in Afghanistan, "Due to the shortage of water, people there used to dig a hole on the ground and place a plastic sheeting on top for water storage. This contaminated water would be drunken by everyone including mules. When I was there, I taught the local community to make use of local resources such as sand and small stones to filter the water beforehand so as to minimize the spreading of diseases."

It is estimated that 3.9 million people have died needlessly since civil war broke out in the DRC in 1998. Some people were killed because of the violence, but the great majority died from preventable diseases like malaria and measles. To those who survive, they have to face extreme deprivation, the threat of brutal violence and acts of sexual violence. MSF has been working in the DRC since 1981 to provide a wide range of services including primary and secondary health care, treatment of malnutrition, emergency surgery, mobile health care, treatment of tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS, care for sexual violence victims, and response to disease outbreaks..

Special thanks to Sala de Exposição Comendador Ho Yin do Clube Militar de Macau for sponsoring the exhibition venue.

Details of the photo exhibition are as follows:

"Democratic Republic of Congo: The Forgotten War" Photo Exhibition

Date: 28 May -- 5 June 2006
Time: 11 a.m. -- 7 p.m. *
(*Open Hours for 29 May: 11a.m. - 3 p.m.; 30 May: 3 p.m. - 7 p.m. )
Venue: Sala de Exposição Comendador Ho Yin do Clube Militar de Macau, Avenida da Praia Grande no. 975

Guided Tours in Cantonese will be organised on 31 May (for public) and 1 June (for schools). Interested individuals or parties are welcomed to make reservation by calling on 6691649 (Mr. Leong) or 6636643 (Ms. Lam).

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