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Democratic Republic of Congo: Hidden crisis builds as new wave of violence makes it increasingly difficult to access survivors of sexual violence
CARE International Press Release
Ahead of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (Nov. 25), CARE warns that many cases of rape, abuse and torture cannot be reported and treated due to security restraints caused by the recent surge in fighting in North Kivu
Democratic Republic of Congo (November 23, 2012) - As the ongoing fighting between the Congolese Army and armed rebel groups has escalated in the Eastern province of North Kivu, the international humanitarian organization CARE warns that many cases of sexual and gender-based violence cannot be reported and treated due to the deteriorating security for humanitarian actors on the ground.
“The suffering does not end when the perpetrators leave the woman alive after raping her,” tells Yawo Douvon, CARE’s Country Director in the Democratic Republic of Congo. “Victims have no means of bringing their cases to justice, and widespread impunity makes it nearly impossible to follow up on cases.”
Fear and violence is reigning in many parts of Eastern Congo and as always, women and girls carry the biggest burden. Looking for firewood and water, they are in constant danger of being attacked, raped and even killed by different armed groups moving around in the area. Rural areas are particularly hard to reach for medical teams, counselors and community mobilizers. Hence, agencies lack sufficient data to trace and treat cases of sexual violence and abuse.
“Data collection is very difficult,” says CARE’s Douvon. “But reports from our field staff and partners show a rising number of cases especially in those areas that have experienced armed clashes and as a consequence, big movements from the population trying to seek refuge from the violence.”
Just outside of Goma, Kanyaruchinya has become a large displacement camp for around 11,000 families, many of them female-headed households. Young men trawl the area and rape women and girls at night. In Masisi and Rutshuru, the CARE teams also report a significant rise in rapes and other acts of violence. To support survivors of sexual and gender-based violence, CARE uses an integrated approach, providing survivors with medical care, psychosocial counseling as well as much needed resources to earn their living through village savings and loans associations. This helps women to get back on their feet and reduces the stigma and social exclusion attached to sexual violence.
CARE calls upon all parties to protect civilians and end impunity for sexual and gender-based violence. All parties must respect the commitments made in UN Security Council Resolution 1820 to protect women affected by sexual and gender-based violence, particularly by ensuring access to basic services, tackling impunity, and investing in prevention. All humanitarian actors need unrestricted access to the populations suffering from widespread insecurity and violence to be able to support the civilian population with relief services and counseling.
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Background: November 25th marks the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and aims to highlight the continuing struggle of women around the world. An estimated 70 per cent of women and girls are subject to physical abuse at least once in their lives. In our humanitarian work, CARE places a special focus on women and girls and supports them to rebuild their livelihoods, reclaim their rights and remain healthy.
About CARE: Founded in 1945, CARE is a leading humanitarian organization fighting global poverty and providing lifesaving assistance in emergencies. In 84 countries around the world, CARE places special focus on working alongside poor girls and women because, equipped with the proper resources, they have the power to help lift whole families and entire communities out of poverty. CARE and its local partners implement long-term development programs and humanitarian assistance interventions in the Great Lakes countries (DRC, Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi), including programs to prevent sexual and gender-based violence and provide support to survivors.