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Reprod Health Matters. 2008 May;16(31):132-41. doi: 10.1016/S0968-8080(08)31350-0.

Fistula and traumatic genital injury from sexual violence in a conflict setting in Eastern Congo: case studies.

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  • 1DOCS/Goma, and School of Medicine, University of Kisangani, Kisangani, Democratic Republic of Congo.


The Eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is currently undergoing a brutal war. Armed groups from the DRC and neighbouring countries are committing atrocities and systematically using sexual violence as a weapon of war to humiliate, intimidate and dominate women, girls, their men and communities. Armed combatants take advantage with impunity, knowing they will not be held to account or pursued by police or judicial authorities. A particularly inhumane public health problem has emerged: traumatic gynaecological fistula and genital injury from brutal sexual violence and gang-rape, along with enormous psychosocial and emotional burdens. Many of the women who survive find themselves pregnant or infected with STIs/HIV with no access to treatment. This report was compiled at the Doctors on Call for Service/Heal Africa Hospital in Goma, Eastern Congo, from the cases of 4,715 women and girls who suffered sexual violence between April 2003 and June 2006, of whom 702 had genital fistula. It presents the personal experiences of seven survivors whose injuries were severe and long-term, with life-changing effects. The paper recommends a coordinated effort amongst key stakeholders to secure peace and stability, an increase in humanitarian assistance and the rebuilding of the infrastructure, human and physical resources, and medical, educational and judicial systems.

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