As the plane danced in the skies during the hour-long flight to Kalemie, an eastern city in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) – I thought about the abused women healing in this region. Then, I couldn’t help but wonder: “What went wrong in the Congo?”
I first visited the massive central African country in 2007. It was a time when rebels attempted to capture Goma, a strategic town located on the shores of Lake Kivu. Worldwide, countries responded to the crisis and the people displaced by violence.
Many were killed and injured from this war. But what gripped my attention most?
The huge number of women that had been raped in the violent campaign. Scores of women sought treatment in basic hospitals. During my DRC travels, most women smiled back at us, but the smiles never reached their eyes. These women wore expressions of constant pain, loss and emptiness.
Inhumane war tactics
In the DRC, more than 1,150 women are raped every day – or 48 women being raped every hour – according to a study conducted in the country about two years ago. While war violence has lessened, there are still random attacks being made.
Rebel factions and soldiers have used rape as a crude weapon to increase fear in eastern DRC. Soldiers are on record saying they would rape a predetermined number of women when attacking a village. Some soldiers admit to having raped more than 50 women and girls as young as age 5.
When I try to think of the solutions to this crisis, my mind often goes numb.
Over and above the physical and psychological trauma, many rape victims also deal with being shamed socially and abandoned by their husbands. Many of these women are uneducated and without social support, struggle to survive.
Rays of hope
But, with each visit to Food for the Hungry projects in the DRC, I see rays of hope.
I meet men and women who are determined to overcome poverty and live in a healthy relationship with God and His creation.
Often women, who have been rape victims, become part of our agriculture or nutrition programs. They find a place to connect with other women and heal.
These programs are also reducing child mortality.
For women abandoned by their husbands, surviving with children is very difficult. The loss of a child from hunger is devastating – and even more so for a woman already carrying the heavy burden of trauma. With the agriculture and nutrition programs, child mortality is decreased. When there is food in homes, women and their children can all live healthier lives and survive.
As these women raise the upcoming generations of the DRC – they will be raising kids with good nutrition, education and God’s truth.
Congo is a country of natural beauty and great potential. The DRC has an estimated $24 trillion worth of untapped raw mineral ores. The Congo River has great promise of hydro-power.
But its 67 million people are still some of the poorest in the world. The World Bank places the poverty headcount 7 in 10 people live in poverty.
FH is working with the government and individuals to reduce malnutrition and increase food production in eastern Congo. These efforts go a long way in stabilizing families and communities, who will be positioned to be a part of a generation that can live up to its potential – personally and collectively.
With partners like you, FH is helping the people of the DRC to take strides in tapping into the potential of the Congo. As communities practice and show God’s love to each other, rape victims will find respite. As these women heal and raise the next generation in good health and peace – maybe the DRC will become a safe place for all people.