With increasing deforestation as trees are felled across Africa for sale (10.5% of the entire forest during the 1980s and 1990s alone) for building, infrastructure projects or for fuel, the Pygmy way of life is under constant threat. Many have had their long held access to the forests curtailed forcing them to develop a new lifestyle often in road side settlements, working as labourers on the land for poverty wages, cigarettes, second hand clothing or more usually, nothing at all. This close proximity to mainly Bantu peoples has created health problems not least exposure to new illnesses, infected malarial mosquitoes and a lack of sanitation as these new occupied areas have little infrastructure not least adequate water and toilet provision. Other illnesses are brought into the forest by loggers as they have contact with the Pygmy people for the first time. These loggers also introduce the indigenous forest people to other substances such as tobacco and stronger drugs.
The situation in the Republic of Congo demonstrates some of the difficulties meeting the needs of the pygmy people in the modern world, a world in which, according to one pygmy man "We are completely neglected and forgotten. Even our wives do not have access to midwives. They are permanently exposed to death because of lack of care during their pregnancy and deliveries. This came with the so-called modern life into which we were dragged. It did not exist when we were living in our natural environment. We had so many plants for such problems." Efforts to improve their circumstances are hampered not least because many of the children have difficulty in attending schools as birth certificates are required for school enrolment in most the countries where the Pygmy people live. Few have such documents as their very lifestyle is outside of such societal norms. As such, despite education being compulsory, just over one in three indigenous children between the ages of 12-15 attend school compared with a national average of 61% in the Republic of Congo.
The government there launched an action plan in 2009 to help these children, however the challenges faced are reflected in the targets set to be achieved by 2013; 50% of indigenous children receiving education, 60% having access to HIV/AIDS prevention and health care services, and 90% being registered with the state. This page shows photos and pictures of the Pygmy people together with videos discussing the many challenges they face in the encroaching modern world and a video taken in colonial times about the Pygmy way of life.
Pygmy People: Congo Rainforest
Pygmy People: HandUp Congo
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