Luhihi, Democratic Republic of the Congo – Deborah* walks down a mud alley between houses cobbled together with plywood and sheets of tarpaulin. On the corner, fuzzy beats emanate from a tin-roofed nightclub. It is only 2pm but drunk men are already hovering at the door, necking beers and milky glasses of moonshine.
Inside it is dark, except for some disco lights that flash green and red. A small group of people are huddled at a table. This place will fill up in the evening, Deborah says, but right now most men are up on the hillside, digging for gold.
She often comes here at night when she is looking for clients. Deborah, who is 17, works as a prostitute in Luhihi, a town on the edge of a gold mine in South Kivu in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). She moved here a year ago, soon after the most recent gold rush began.
People first started digging in Luhihi in 2014, but when deposits seemed to dry up, most went elsewhere. Then, in May 2020, a man found a large lump of gold and the news quickly spread across the region.