Every time you use a cell phone or log on to a computer, you could be contributing to the death toll in the bloodiest, most violent region in the world: the eastern Congo. Rich in “conflict minerals”—valuable resources mined in the midst of armed conflict and egregious human rights abuses—this remote and lawless land is home to deposits of gold and diamonds as well as coltan, tin, and tungsten, all critical to cell phones, computers, and other popular electronics.

In Consuming the Congo, veteran journalist and author Peter Eichstaedt goes into these killing fields to find what is behind the bloodshed, hearing the stories of those who live this nightmarish reality. He talks with survivors of villages decimated by war and miners slogging knee-deep in muck, desperately digging up the gold, tin, and coltan on which Western culture depends. While these men work with picks, shovels, and iron bars, marauding militias and renegade army units who control the mines roam the jungles, killing and raping with impunity, taking their profits, and leaving villagers to a life of grueling manual labor, brutality, and disease.

Some five million Congolese have died unnecessarily, the worst loss of human life since World War II, yet the pillaging and bloodletting continue at a frightening pace. Consuming the Congo not only explores the violence suffered by the Congolese but also examines how we, as part of the problem, can become part of the solution.