DR Congo

Fear of rape and violence rising - Women for Women International reaches out to vulnerable women in Congo

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Washington, DC, November 13, 2008 - Amidst the widespread violence and large-scale human suffering, Women for Women International is preparing to respond to the needs of thousands of women who are threatened by the fighting and in urgent need of assistance.

"We will reach out to more women including those who now live in displacement camps in and around Goma and hope to offer sponsorship to the most vulnerable among them," says Karen Sherman, Executive Director of Global Programs with Women for Women International. "Since most women are not able to come to us, we will go to them and offer assistance through financial aid and on-site training."

The direct financial assistance will help them pay for food, medicine, and other lifesaving needs. With the latest outbreak of violence, more than 250,000 people have been forced to leave their homes over the last few weeks alone, bringing the total number of displaced to more than 1.2 million.

The worst fighting is occurring close to the provincial capital city of Goma, where Women for Women International is training and assisting almost 1,000 women. The UN reports that retreating fighters have committed widespread acts of rape and looting just 60 miles north of Goma. In an incident on Tuesday night, 75,000 people fled their homes following a gun battle in Kibati, just six miles from the city.

"More than half of our women are missing classes in our training program in Goma," says Christine Karumba via phone from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. "Due to the volatile situation they are unable to reach our training facilities."

"We worry that many of our women have been displaced and lost all their belongings - or, even worse, have once again become victims of violence. We will find them as soon as the situation allows us to go to their homes and help them to reintegrate into the program" says Karumba.

Over the past decade, a brutal conflict has devastated much of the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), leaving the country without a functioning infrastructure and most families in a state of crisis. More than five million people have died from war-related causes, and women are often directly targeted by combatants using rape and other forms of sexual violence as a weapon of war.

Women for Women International in DR Congo is currently assisting approximately 7,000 women through financial support and a year-long program that includes rights awareness, health education, and skills training. The organization works with communities in Bukavu, Goma, Fizi and Baraka in the heavily affected South and North Kivu provinces in Eastern Congo.

For more information go to www.womenforwomen.org

Women for Women International, a nonprofit 501 (c) (3) organization, provides women survivors of war, civil strife and other conflicts with the tools and resources to move from crisis and poverty to stability and self-sufficiency, thereby promoting viable civil societies. Women for Women International is a Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize award winner.

Contact: Natalia Cieslik phone 1 202 5219523