UN Report shines light on hidden crisis in Congo

05/10/2010

In response to the long-awaited United Nations' report on human rights abuses in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) from 1993-2003, Caritas Australia is calling on Australians to ensure peace and dignity for the millions of people marginalised by conflict in the Congo.

According to the United Nations, the report released on 1 October describes in excess of 600 incidents of human rights abuses against Congolese civilians - in particular rape and gender-based violence - that took place in the 10 years of bloody conflict since 1993.

According to Caritas Australia’s CEO Jack de Groot, the extent of the humanitarian crisis in the Congo is almost inconceivable - yet it goes largely unnoticed by the rest of the world.

“The situation for women and children is abhorrent. Even today, the DRC remains one of the deadliest places in the world to live, and is fundamentally the most dangerous place to be a woman,” Mr de Groot said.

“The United Nations report collected testimony from thousands of witnesses; from Caritas Australia’s extensive experience in the Congo - from the stories we hear from our partners and the vulnerable communities they serve - there’s no doubt the UN report will at last tell the story of a nation plagued by extreme poverty, institutionalised violence and horrific rape.”

A silent emergency

The Congo is wracked by war that claimed up to four million lives in a decade. On average, 45 women and girls were raped in the Congo daily; yearly more than 1,400 vulnerable civilians were killed deliberately as a result of clashes between Congolese and Rwandan militia; and every day 1,500 people continue to die from preventable diseases.

“The emergency in the Congo barely registers on the public radar; yet the scale of atrocities is so immense and confronting that we ought to be compelled to respond,” Mr de Groot said. “Today we’re calling on Australians to reignite their compassion for the victims of Congo’s silent emergency and take action with Caritas to bring an end to the enduring conflict.”

Caritas Australia has worked at the grassroots in the DRC since 2000. Together with its local partners, the aid organisation works to care for and empower the victims of rape, helps to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS and works to overcome the structural causes of extreme poverty through early education and vocational training.

To learn more, visit the Democratic Republic of Congo webpage on the Caritas site.


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