"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,"
Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) teams have provided medical care for 127 women who have been raped in a town in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) after an attack by dozens of armed militiamen.
Our team offered medical assistance to the victims of sexual violence in Kikamba, and a set of procedures have been implemented to monitor the survivors and ensure that their privacy is respected.
There was also looting and armed clashes during the incident, in which at least two people were injured from gun shots. They were also treated and sent to two hospitals in the area which also receive assistance from MSF.
"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.
On the evening of 1 May, according to reports to the MSF team by people in Kikamba, approximately 60 armed men attacked the village.
The attackers looted homes, assaulted men and raped a large number of women in the early morning hours that followed.
[The survivors] who came forward are between the ages of 14 and 70-years-old
They also held around 30 children prisoners, using them to carry stolen goods during their escape, later freeing them. After receiving the alert, our team arrived 24 hours later to provide medical assistance to the survivors.
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 our 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 survived sexual assault. Those who came forward are between the ages of 14 and 70-years-old.
MSF in Kikamba, DRC
MSF began offering assistance at the Kikamba health centre in 2010 due to the large-scale influx of displaced people in the area, and remained to guarantee access to basic healthcare for residents.
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.