Rape cases up by 60 percent in North Kivu - UNHCR

A total of 351 cases of rape were reported in North Kivu province, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), representing a 60 percent increase from August, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said on 11 October.

Rape survivors among new internally displaced persons (IDPs) are being referred to specialist organisations for medical treatment and psycho-social support, the agency stated.

"Displaced [people] report severe violations by armed groups, such as pillaging and destruction of houses, killings of civilians, recruitment of children into armed groups and cases of rape," UNHCR said.

There were more than 2,000 cases of rape in North Kivu between January and September 2007, according to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), which reported that rape and other human-rights abuses were taking place in parts of North Kivu unaffected by fighting between the Congolese army and insurgents led by renegade army commander Laurent Nkunda.

Women in Luofo, about 165km southeast of Butembo, began a seventh day of hunger strikes on 12 October to protest against looting, rape and killing by armed groups, according to Caritas Congo Développement. 

“During the seven days of their hunger strike, the women resolved not to make food for their children or their husbands, not to harvest their fields and not to draw water,” said the agency’s spokesman, Guy-Marin Kamandji.

The head of UNFPA in North Kivu, Jean-Claude Kamanga, said the situation was all the more alarming because the region has an HIV/AIDS prevalence rate of more than 5 percent.

“Rape victims who turn up more than 24 hours after the attack have more chance of becoming infected,” said Kamanga, adding that some of these women suffered injuries that could lead to fistula.

The UN estimates that at least 370,000 civilians have been displaced in the province in the latest bout of fighting.

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