Burundi: Enough is enough - International Women's Day 2004
5 March 2004
Fortunately, almost all the victims arrive within 72 hours in the hospital, some after walking 25 kilometres. This quick arrival allows them to be treated by MSF's Post-Exposure-Protocol, which includes the administration of the morning after pill and the systematic treatment for sexually transmitted diseases (STD's). If requested, women are also tested for HIV/aids. Counselling is offered alongside medical treatment, and an international staff member records each woman's story. In November, MSF started treating raped women in the Kinyinya hospital in the rural Moso area and two months earlier also opened a health centre for women in Bujumbura-Mairie dealing with sexual violence, as well as family planning and sexually transmitted infections. Providing medical and psychological care in addition to working in collaboration with Avocats Sans Frontières to ensure the possibility of a legal follow-up , the centre has received an increasing volume of patients since opening, with the number of cases rising from 40 in September to 92 in January. It also works in close contact with local associations who orient women to MSF and carry out awareness raising concerning sexual violence. † Raising awareness about this delicate issue is very important in order to remove victims'stigma and ensure as many of them as possible get treatment in time. The message is twofold: stating explicitly that rape is a violation of human rights and it is not the victim who is responsible, and informing (potential) victims about the importance of seeing a doctor within 72 hours to get free and confidential treatment. This message is disseminated via daily national radiobroadcasts, banners and posters in the health centres, along with presentations held for the women and men in the waiting rooms of the health centres. "Communicating on this delicate issue is certainly not easy,"says Maria Mora, assistant Head of Mission. "The word 'rape' does not exist in the local language Kirundi here. After many discussions, we came to the translation 'sexual relation outside the couple by force'."