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Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 November, 2003, 12:47 GMT
Rape legacy of DR Congo conflict
Twelve-year-old Congolese rape victim (Pic: WFP)
This 12-year-old is trying to get over her ordeal by going to school
The massive scale of rape in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo is being uncovered, aid agencies say.

"We have never come across as many victims of rape in a conflict situation," said a spokeswoman for the World Food Programme (WFP).

Christiane Berthiaume said that thousands of women were going to health centres to receive treatment.

After four years of war, the situation in DR Congo is improving, allowing aid workers further into rebel-held areas.

According to WFP, doctors in the eastern city of Bukavu, near the border with Rwanda, are treating 150 new cases a month and the numbers are growing.


For each victim who sought treatment, often for severe internal wounds, aid workers estimated that there were 30 more women or young girls who had been raped, Ms Berthiaume said.

"There are women, girls, as young as five and as old as 80, who have been systematically raped several times, tortured and injured by firearms."

With fighting now decreasing in the North and South Kivu provinces, the World Food Programme said it had access to areas which were too dangerous to enter earlier.

The two provinces border Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi, all of which were involved in DR Congo's war.

The situation was said to be mirrored in other eastern towns.

However, UN humanitarian affairs officials reported that fighting had resumed in parts of South Kivu province, displacing thousands of civilians.

A UN mission is monitoring the ceasefire agreement under the peace process set up in April, ending a war that drew in half a dozen African countries at its height and claimed an estimated 2.5 million lives.

Despite the establishment of an interim government in July, armed groups still roam across parts of eastern DR Congo.

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