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MBANDAKA, DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO JUNE 26: Mama Songo, age 2.5, a daughter of a crew member, looks at her mother after taking a bath under deck while traveling on a boat made of big trees on the Congo River on June 26, 2006 outside Mbandaka, Congo, DRC. She is taken care of by Giselle Longo, age 15, a domestic worker on the boat. The boat traveled with about 150 passengers from Bumba to Kinshasa, a journey of about 1300 kilometers. The Congo River is a lifeline for millions of people, who depend on it for transport and trade. Passengers slept in the open, with their goats, pigs and other animals. Boat travel is the only option for most people along the river as there?s no roads or infrastructure. Very few can afford to fly in a plane to the capital Kinshasa. During the Mobuto era, big boats run by the state company ONATRA dominated the river. These boats had cabins and restaurants etc. All the boats are now private and are mainly barges that transport goods. The crews sell tickets to passengers who travel in very bad conditions. The conditions on the boats often resemble conditions in a refugee camp. Congo is planning to hold general elections by July 2006, the first democratic elections in forty years. The Congolese and the international community are hoping that Congo will finally have piece and the country will be rebuilt..(Photo by Per-Anders Pettersson/Getty Images).
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