Democratic Republic of Congo

MSF assists more than a hundred women who claimed being sexually abused

Bukavu, DRC – Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) teams in the region of Shabunda, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), have provided medical care for 127 women who reported being sexually abused after an attack by dozens of armed men in the town of Kikamba (South Kivu province).

MSF offered medical assistance to the victims of sexual violence and a set of procedures have been implemented to monitor the victims and ensure that their privacy is respected. There was also looting during the incident, in which at least two people were injured from gun shots. These victims were also treated and sent to two hospitals in the area.

In the evening of 1 May approximately 60 armed men attacked the village, according to reports to the MSF team by Kikamba inhabitants. The attackers looted homes, assaulted men and raped a large number of women in the early morning hours that followed. They also held around 30 children for some hours and used them to carry stolen goods during their escape, later freeing them.

After receiving the alert, the MSF team arrived 24 hours later to provide medical assistance to the victims. Although a large part of the population has sought refuge in the forest fearing the action of armed attackers, many victims have visited the medical centre after hearing about the arrival of the MSF team.  Several women from the group reported being raped by attackers. In the days that followed, more than a hundred women have come forward, stating that they too have been victims of sexual assault. Victims of rape range in age from 14 to 70 years old.

"Large-scale sexual assaults linked to the actions of armed groups are, unfortunately, not exceptional within the DRC context," explained Francisco Otero, the head of mission for MSF in South Kivu. "In this event, many victims have come forward very quickly, looking for medical assistance. This is not the norm, as victims usually don’t report this type of aggression for fear of retaliation by armed groups or rejection in their own community," he added.

MSF began offering assistance at the Kikamba health centre in 2010 due to the large-scale influx of displaced people in the area, remaining there to guarantee access to basic healthcare for inhabitants. In the region of Shabunda, MSF works with general hospitals located in Shabunda and Matili, offering assistance to six health centres. Last year, MSF carried out more than 150,000 consultations, 260 for injuries resulting from sexual violence. END