DR Congo

Congolese women's rape silence

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Caritas in Goma is carrying out assessments on the numbers of victims of sexual violence in the current unrest in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

A Caritas team in Goma reported 39 cases of rape in one day - ten of which took place in the Mugunga camp.

Reports from Caritas Goma say many victims prefer to suffer in silence for fear of being rejected by their husbands rather than speak out and seek treatment.

As insecurity in eastern Congo deteriorates, many women are at risk of attack as they venture out to find wood so they can cook food.

Meanwhile, Caritas has begun distributing food rations in eastern Congo to 64,000 people who have fled their homes to escape recent violence.

Hundreds of thousands of people are facing hunger, disease and brutality as rebel forces work their way across North Kivu, bringing with them a wave of killing, rape and destruction.

"The situation is devastating," says Alexander Bühler, from Caritas Germany. "No one can definitely say how many people in total have fled their homes because of violence, but it is clearly over 1 million."

A fragile ceasefire brokered last week has collapsed as rebels and Congolese troops have taken up arms again.

Caritas is currently distributing ten days' worth of food rations provided by the UN World Food Programme (WFP) in four camps to the west of Goma. The rations consist of maize flour, peas, vegetable oil and salt.

But the situation is desperate for many of the people in and around Goma. Camps are overcrowded and cases of cholera have already been reported.

"It is dreadful. There is no supply of medicine, 800 people share one water tap, the latrines are overflowing and hygiene is virtually nonexistent," said Mr Bühler about one camp he visited this week.

Insecurity has made assessments and aid delivery difficult, with some agencies suspending operations. In some cases camps have been destroyed and the occupants have fled into the bush, fearing for their lives.

For the hundreds of thousands of people of Congo who have left their homes and are living in fear, simple things such as food, water, blankets and a dry, safe place to sleep are no longer guaranteed. See how you can help.

For more information please contact Michelle Hough on +39 06 6987 9752/+39 334 234 4136 or hough@caritas.va