Hospital's 300 rape victims a month
A hospital in eastern Congo that helps victims of sexual violence is now treating 300 rape survivors a month and that is just "the tip of the iceberg", says the United Nations' deputy emergency relief co-ordinator.
Assistant secretary general Kyung-Wha Kang, who visited eastern Congo last week, said the founder of Panzi Hospital in the South Kivu capital of Bukavu told her that the number of women and girls coming for treatment as a result of rapes had increased since 2012.
Ms Kang said rapes in South Kivu were committed by different armed groups including the Raia Mutomboki, a village self-protection vigilante group that had become a "very brutal" rebel force and controlled large areas. The Congolese army and the rebel M23 group have also been accused of rapes.
The Panzi Hospital, run by Dr Denis Mukwege, is "like a haven for rape survivors, and we can only imagine the number of rape victims who don't make it to such facilities", Ms Kang said. "So the 300 registered by the hospital (every month) is just the tip of the iceberg."
Ms Kang said increased fighting by M23 rebels in North Kivu last year and by the Raia Mutomboki in South Kivu more recently had led to an increase in the number of displaced people in eastern Congo, from 1.8 million at the beginning of 2012 to 2.6 million this year.
As a result, the humanitarian situation had deteriorated, including food insecurity and malnutrition.
The UN has appealed for £583 million for Congo this year, but Ms Kang said so far donors had pledged only £218 million, about 37%.
As a result of the lack of funds, the daily food ration to the displaced near Walungu in South Kivu had been cut in half, Ms Kang said. She said thousands of people had arrived in the village of Mulamba in Walungu, which she visited, since early 2013 due to attacks by the Raia Mutomboki.
She said everyone she met was placing great hope that the peace deal signed by Congo and 10 other countries in February would bring calm after decades of conflict.