All eyes will be properly set on South Sudan in the coming days as voters in the South participate in a referendum that will likely mean the succession of Christian/traditional South Sudan from the Muslim North (Here's a recent editorial). An alert from Médecins Sans Frontières passed along by our friends at Caritas Internationalis reminds us, however, that the Sudan is not the only nation in Africa were international focus must be maintained. Rape has long been an act of war in the Democratic Republic of Congo (see this report); sadly the dispatch below describes a horrific but still too common event in the DRC:
MSF TREATS VICTIMS OF MASS RAPE ON NEW YEAR’S DAY IN DRCAdvertisement
South Kivu, DRC/New York, January 6, 2011 -- The international medical humanitarian organization, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has provided specialized care to 33 women raped on New Year’s Day in Fizi, South Kivu, in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. The women were raped on the night of January 1 in Fizi town and surroundings in a coordinated attack. MSF medical teams treated 14 women at the hospital in Fizi on January 3, and 19 women the next day. In addition, two severely wounded people were transferred to Baraka Hospital, one with serious head injuries after being beaten with a rock, the other with gunshot wounds in the chest.
“Women had been restrained with ropes or beaten unconscious with the butt of a gun before being attacked, some in front of their children,” said Annemarie Loof, MSF head of mission in South Kivu. “Up to four armed men were involved at a time and homes and shops were looted.”
MSF provides specialized medical care to women and girls who have been raped, including post-exposure prophylaxis, treatment that protects women from contracting the HIV virus and other sexually transmitted infections. Many women are afraid to seek treatment because of fear of being stigmatized by their families or further harassed by armed groups.
“MSF is extremely concerned about the current situation in and around Fizi,” Loof said. “People are fleeing the area fearing further violent attacks.” In 2009 alone, MSF provided medical and psychosocial care for 5,600 rape victims in North and South Kivu.