Kidnapped women, children are ‘sex slaves’ in DR Congo: MSF

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TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY ALBERT KAMBALE A woman and her child fill on June 16, 2014 containers at a water pump belonging to the public water distribution service Regideso in the center of the northeastern city of Goma, where most of the one million residents of the city are still waiting to have clean, uncontaminated running tap water in their homes. Goma lies on the edge of one of the largest soft water reservoirs in the world, lake Kivu, where it is rains abundantly, but most people have to go to the lake to fetch water, chlorinate it for drinking or buy it some from sellers, who make about 10 US dollars a day, transporting an average of 120 liters (30 gallons) on bicycles from the lake to the city. Goma, which  borders Rwanda, has seen its population explode with refugees from Rwanda, nearby Burundi and internally-displaced Congolese, fleeing the numerous conflicts in the region.      AFP PHOTO / JUNIOR D.KANNAH
In just one village between May and early July, MSF said its medical teams provided consultations for 3,586 people and treated 143 women, three men and two children who had suffered sexual violence. AFP Photo / Junior D Kannah

KINSHASA, July 16, 2014 (AFP) – Women and children are being kidnapped by armed gangs and forced to work as sex slaves in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, the medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said Wednesday.

“Victims have been held as sex slaves – sometimes for months at a time – and sexually assaulted violently by several men, several times a day,” MSF psychologist Ana Maria Tijerino said in a statement.

The aid group also warned that men are being kidnapped and put to work as labourers in the gold and diamond mining region of Okapi, in the east of the vast, mineral-rich nation.

In just one village between May and early July, MSF said its medical teams provided consultations for 3,586 people and treated 143 women, three men and two children who had suffered sexual violence.

Last month a team treated 20 women in a single village who had been raped, it said.

“Violence and sexual violence are nothing new in DR Congo,” Tijerino said. “But for the victims, these atrocities are not normal. No one should have to accept violence on this level.”

MSF warned that many of the victims of sexual violence kept captive for weeks were not receiving vital medical aid that could protect against HIV, sexually transmitted infections or pregnancy.

“Months after an assault, the physical and psychological trauma is still apparent in the survivors,” Tijerino said. “Many suffer from pain, infected wounds, stress, depression and nightmares. They are scared for the future and haunted by what they have lived through.”

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