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Foreign Secretary, William Hague, today announced £205,288 ($312,110) in new UK funding to support the work of Physicians for Human Rights working out of the Panzi Hospital in eastern DRC, to help efforts to develop local and national capacity to document and collect evidence of sexual violence. The Panzi hospital specialises in treating women, men and children who have been victims of sexual violence. UN Women estimate that at least 200,000 cases of sexual violence have been documented in eastern DRC since 1996.
The new UK funds will enable the provision of essential equipment, including ultrasound machines, locked evidence cabinets and solar powered medical headlamps to support investigations into rape and sexual violence.
It will also fund the deployment of two Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative (PSVI) experts for three months to train and mentor doctors, lawyers, police and judges on their response to specific current cases of sexual violence.
The announcement was made during the Foreign Secretary’s visit to the country with UNHCR Special Envoy, Angelina Jolie.
Unfortunately they were not able to reach Panzi Hospital to make the announcement due to bad weather which grounded the UN helicopter. The Director of Panzi Hospital, Dr Mukwege, and his courageous staff had been due to meet the party along with representatives from Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) who work from Panzi Hospital on projects aimed at tackling impunity for sexual violence and building the capacity of the Congolese authorities to investigate and prosecute these crimes.
The Foreign Secretary said:
Without the work of Dr Mukwege and his team many women would not have survived the vicious attacks that they were subjected to. There is an enormous human cost associated with rape and sexual violence, and there is an urgent need for the international community to act to prevent these crimes and support victims. At the meeting of G8 Foreign Ministers in London on April 11th I will be asking countries to make practical commitments so that we can erode and one day shatter the culture of impunity for those who use rape as a weapon of war.
Physicians for Human Rights is leading the way in developing local and national capacity to document and collect evidence of sexual violence, and I am pleased that we are able to support this essential work.
Mr Hague visited the Heal Africa hospital in Goma which treats rape victims and works for their future welfare, through micro-enterprise schemes and psycho-sexual counselling. This was instead of the planned visit to Panzi. He then met community organisations who advocate on behalf of survivors of sexual violence, and saw a powerful film co-produced by local women’s rights groups movingly titled “Our Voices Matter”.
The Foreign Secretary announced support to Women’s Initiative for Gender Justice of £850,000 ($1.292,458) over the next three years.
The Foreign Secretary continued:
Our funding to the Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice will support their collaborative programme in Eastern DRC in documenting sexual and gender based violence and in providing much needed assistance and support to survivors. It will also support the important work they do in monitoring the International Criminal Court’s approach to sexual and gender based violence crimes. It was a privilege to meet many inspirational women who are using their dreadful experiences to support others and lobby for change. UK funding will help support the work of Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice for the next three years.