The main region being supported is the Great Lakes area of Central Africa where many countries are affected by past or present civil wars, such as DR Congo, Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda. Local women’s rights organisations have very few resources but nonetheless provide essential assistance for survivors and their families. To strengthen their work and promote local approaches to providing aid, medica mondiale established its Grant Program, providing carefully chosen local partners with finances and expert advice.

Sexualised violence against women and girls in the Great Lakes area of Central Africa

  • According to an American study from 2011, up to 1.8 million women and girls in the DR Congo between the ages of 15 and 49 (around 12 percent) were raped at least once in their lives. In the period between 2006 and 2007 alone, there were around 400,000 women, two-thirds of them children under the age of 18, who were raped. So-called "domestic violence" –  sexual violence by their husbands or partners – experienced about 35 percent of all Congolese women. In North Kivu Province, according to the European Parliament (2014), it was even 50 percent of women. In 2019, the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) documented 1,409 cases of conflict-related sexualised violence, an increase of 34 percent since the previous year. 955 of the assaults were therefore carried out by non-State armed groups. According to MONUSCO; the Armed Forces of the DR Congo committed 383 sexualised assaults, an increase of 76 percent since 2018.
  • One in four raped women in DR Congo is under 18 years of age. One in a hundred becomes pregnant because of the rape. One in ten raped women is infected with HIV.
  • Of 100,000 expectant mothers, 473 died at birth in 2017, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
  • In DR Congo many women are attacked while out in the fields or are forcibly abducted from their homes. The perpetrators are generally members of the Congolese army, militias, or rebel groups but also civilians. What they have in common is their brutality. Many victims are abducted, sometimes raped repeatedly for weeks on end, and then abandoned in a severely injured state
  • The survivors of the violence only seldom find medical, psychological or material support because social and health services are almost entirely non-existent, particularly in the crisis regions in the east of DR Congo. And especially in rural areas there is a shortage of female doctors and nursing staff. The women and girls often suffer severe injuries, which make it difficult for them to travel to the nearest clinic. In addition, most of them are too poor to pay for transport, medicines or treatment.
  • In 2018, the world's second largest Ebola epidemic on record broke out in the DR Congo. Since then, more than 3,400 infections, including about 2,300 deaths, have been reported according to the WHO.
  • Sexualised wartime violence was employed in Ruanda as a tactic for spreading fear and for demonstrating power. According to the United Nations children’s organisation UNICEF, the estimated number of raped women and girls lies somewhere between 250,000 and 500,000 – precise figures are not known. Most of them were murdered after they were raped, bur some of the survivors became unwilling mothers as a result of the acts of sexualised violence; official estimates range from 2000 to 5000 children, the number of unreported cases is undoubtedly much higher.
  • In many villages in North-Uganda, traditional customs forbid women to own property.
  • Since the beginning of the military conflicts in Uganda in the early 1980s, many young women and girls have been kidnapped, raped and sexually enslaved. For months, in some cases years, they were held prisoner by the rebels and forced to both serve them sexually and to kill.
  • Girls and young women in Uganda who were repeatedly raped, are seen by their families as "unclean" and are often ostracised. In addition, many of the young women in the rebel camps gave birth to children as a consequence of repeated rape. These children often experience both a difficult and traumatic relationship with their mother and rejection by their wider families and communities.

(Last updated: 2020)

Practical Examples:

During an 8-month course, our partner organisation Marthe Robin taught tailoring and dressmaking skills to 10 young single mothers in Burundi.

535 survivors of sexualised violence were provided with psychosocial counselling in their advice centre by the partner organisation Nturengaho in Burundi in 2019.

In order to combat the Ebola epidemic, in South and North Kivu PAIF set up 15 preventive health care stations. 3,868 people learnt how one measure that can prevent the spread of Ebola is using disinfectant and water to wash their hands.

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Partner organisations:
Burundi: Maison Marthe Robin, MUKENYEZI MENYA, Association NTURENGAHO, Dushirehamwe
Rwanda: SEVOTA

Project regions:

Burundi: Bujumbura, provinces of Cibitoke, Kayanza, Ngozi
DR Congo: provinces of North and South Kivu
Rwanda: Muhanga, Kirehe, Kigali, Kamonyi, Rubavu, Bugesera
Uganda: Kampala, districts of Apac, Nebbi Kingdom (Arua und Zombo), Kitgum and Lamwo

Project priorities:

  • integrated support for survivors of sexualised violence and their children
  • preventive health care in communities and schools
  • community work against violence within the family
  • advocacy work to achieve support for survivors
  • organisational development for women’s rights organisations

Federal Ministry for Economic Co-operation and Development (BMZ)
Europäische Union/ NGO Konsortium mit HealthNet TPO
Fondation Smartpeace
Medicor Foundation
Fürsorge und Bildungsstiftung
Donations/own resources

Source: annual report 2019

Overview of all partner organisations of medica mondiale

Armed groups have been fighting since the 1990s in eastern Congo and the border areas of Uganda and Rwanda to secure power, land and raw materials. This particularly affects women and girls. Time and again, armed attacks include extremely violent assaults on women. In August 2018 eastern Congo faced another problem when there was an outbreak of Ebola. Here, too, it is women and girls who are particularly affected, because treating ill people is frequently seen as female work. It was not until the end of 2019 that the epidemic began to ebb, followed shortly after by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Our partner organisations support women and girls affected by violence. Copyright: Nyokabi Kahura/Malteser International
Our partner organisations support women and girls affected by violence. Copyright: Nyokabi Kahura/Malteser International

Holistic support for survivors

In order to strengthen survivors in a sustainable way, partner organisations such as AFPDE and EPF in the DR Congo or Mukenyezi Menya in Burundi provide psychosocial, legal or socio-economic support in addition to medical care.

In South Kivu medica mondiale is training psychosocial assistants together with local experts. These assistants learn trauma-sensitive ways to counsel  and offer skilled support to women and girls affected by violence. In 2019 medica mondiale was able to sign a partnership agreement with the Health Ministry in Bukavu. This sets out how the experts will also conduct training for selected health institutions.

Ebola or Covid-19 are an additional threat to women's rights, as women are comparatively strong affected by the social consequences. Our partner organisation PAIF is active in eastern Congo and reacted in 2019 with a prevention project against Ebola. As a local organisation PAIF is trusted by the people, which is a decisive advantage: Many people are distrustful of institutions and foreign organisations. Staff members from PAIF carried out public information efforts including radio programmes, flyers and posters, informing about transmission pathways and prevention measures. They distributed personal protective equipment and built up hand-washing stations with disinfectant in places such as schools and church communities. The expertise gained now helps PAIF to inform about risks and prevention in the current Covid-19 crisis.

Staff of our partner organisation SEVOTA in their office. Copyright: Rendel Freude/medica mondiale

Awareness raising and prevention work

In order to counter the widespread gender-specific violence in the region, in 2019 medica mondiale worked together with its partner organisations PAIF in eastern Congo, SEVOTA in Rwanda and MEMPROW in Uganda to develop the joint project “See Far”. In the See Far programme, each of them assists women and girls with their own local offers. For example, as part of the programme in 2019 MEMPROW carried out several sessions explaining the rights of teenage mothers. PAIF set its priority on Ebola prevention and SEVOTA focussed on empowerment and community reintegration for women affected by violence. As a second component of See Far, the three organisations conducted joint public awareness work to prevent sexualised violence. In Burundi, the organisation Nturengaho and the network Dushirehamwe work to prevent sexualised and gender-specific violence.

Advocacy work

The third part of the programme is a common advocacy strategy in order to target decision-makers at a regional level. Furthermore, the partners want to develop joint training concepts for parents, teaching staff, community elders, police workers and courts. La Floraison in Congo is also committed to the interests of survivors by sensitising authorities and communities about sexualised violence.

(Status of: 2019)