Rape used once again as a weapon in the DRC

MSF staff in the city of Mbandaka, in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), have been providing emergency care to local inhabitants after armed military personnel looted the area and attacked locals, shooting many, killing at least six and raping men, women and children. Some people were shot at point-blank range. On Sunday morning (July 3, 2005) a group of 80 to 100 military personnel from a local transit centre in Mbandaka stole weapons from a warehouse and attacked the local inhabitants. They accused the locals of having murdered one of their colleagues. The military personnel were based in a transit centre awaiting integration into the national army. Mbandaka is the capital of Equateur in the Western province of the DRC. This event has shattered the calm that had returned to the city since the transition towards peace began in 2003 that had put an end to a bloody, five-year war. Immediate response The national team of MSF’s emergency pool immediately combed the city’s neighbourhoods and accessible health structures to transport the most severe cases to the hospital. During the 24-hour rebellion, 46 persons were wounded by gunshots and six were killed. Another aspect to this violence is that 29 people examined by MSF had been raped. In response to the high number of cases, an awareness campaign was quickly launched to encourage victims of sexual violence to seek medical care within 72 hours. During this crucial time-frame, proper treatment can reduce the risk that wounds and bleeding caused by forced penetration will result in HIV/AIDS transmission. “These are the problems we face during upheavals in a country where peace remains fragile,” said Alain Decoux, MSF’s Head of Mission in DRC.“Although security has improved in many locations, the situation remains precarious, and events like this can occur at any moment. In addition, despite what people say, victims of sexual violence often don’t receive treatment. In fact, few victims really have access to appropriate medical care, even though this violence is a calamity that calls for quick intervention”. In addition to anti-retroviral treatments to prevent HIV/AIDS, victims must take the from 'morning-after' pill as soon as possible to avoid unwanted pregnancies. They must also be given vaccines and antibiotics against sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Mbandaka is once again quiet, but victims must live with the long-lasting memories of their traumas and the fear that it may happen again. MSF has been working in Equateur for nearly 20 years. In addition to responding to alerts and emergencies in this province, MSF offers quality health care to the most needy; treats patients with sexually transmitted diseases in five health structures; and organizes information sessions on STIs and HIV/AIDS in the city of Mbandaka.