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Community workers brave the odds to help survivors of violence in DRC

A group of community workers in the DRC who travel kilometres to reach survivors of sexual violence and attacks on displaced communities in eastern DRC are linking them with vital assistance. AP Photo/Jerome Delay.

A group of community workers in the DRC who travel kilometres to reach survivors of sexual violence and attacks on displaced communities in eastern DRC are linking them with vital assistance. AP Photo/Jerome Delay.

Published Mar 10, 2022

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Cape Town – Every week hundreds of incidents of human rights abuses are recorded against civilians in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the UN Refugee Agency said on Thursday.

But a group of workers who travel kilometres to reach survivors of sexual violence and attacks on displaced communities in eastern DRC are linking them with vital assistance.

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According to the UN refugee agency, these guardian angels are often among the team of first responders to sexual violence and other human rights violations against people already displaced from their homes by the region’s long history of conflict.

During 2021, UNHCR, through the NGO founded in 1992 to assist populations affected by natural disasters and armed conflicts in the name of solidarity, social justice and universal rights, INTERSOS, recorded more than 65 000 separate human rights abuses in the east of the country alone, according to the UN body for refugees.

According to the UNHCR, collecting information about human rights violations and other protection incidents in a systematic manner allows for the analysis of trends by region and sector, revealing some of the driving factors such as inter-ethnic tensions, impunity for perpetrators and abuse of power.

According to the latest figures from the refugee body, more than 5.6 million Congolese were internally displaced at the end of last year, the majority in the four eastern provinces of North and South Kivu, Ituri and Tanganyika.

A ‘state of siege’ enforced by Congolese authorities across North Kivu and Ituri provinces since May last year aimed to curb lawlessness and violence perpetrated by countless militia groups.

However, the measure has provided only limited respite for local citizens amid continuing outbreaks of violence.

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