Response to GBV in Shabunda and Mwenga, South Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)
Parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo continue to endure what is one of the most protracted humanitarian crises on earth. While sporadic violence and pronounced humanitarian need is found across parts of the DRC, the eastern part of the country remains most affected, with more than 1.6 million IDPs, mostly fleeing violence and armed conflict.1 This ongoing violence in eastern DRC exposes women, men and children to GBV and other protection related risks. Every month, more than 200 women and girls are sexually abused in Shabunda and Mwenga.2
Christian Aid, through its partner SARCAF, are responding directly to this widespread exposure to GBV in the region. The response is multi-faceted and holistic, providing: initial psychosocial first aid; counselling services; logistical and financial support for medical follow up; and economic and legal support in the latter stages of response.
Programme Components & Impact
- Psychosocial support in Listening Houses: Small rooms in houses are used to receive and counsel survivors and provide a safe space to protect survivors against reprisals from perpetrators and to prevent stigmatisation. Each counselling centre has a psychosocial assistant or a focal point trained on psychological care for victims of GBV.
- Medical Support: Hospitals with the capacity to provide care for survivors of sexual violence are only present in larger cities in DRC. If survivors require medical follow up, the programme supports them by paying the transport and food costs and a relative to accompany them if necessary.
- Economic and Reintegration: Over 70% of survivors of sexual violence in the region are abandoned by their husbands and forcibly removed from their families, exacerbating their trauma and poverty. However due to education campaigns and survivor reintegration efforts, this has decreased from 95% 4 years ago. In more extreme cases, a psychosocial assistant organises family reconciliation mediation. The programme provides training on income generating activities and establishes microfinance groups to help members save and access credit. Survivors have found that economic activity has helped them to re-integrate into their families and communities.
This approach illustrates the value of a comprehensive response to GBV that considers the most effective ways of addressing survivors’ needs in the timeline after they have experienced sexual assault. It highlights the need for robust medical and psychosocial support but also the sometimes overlooked necessity of having economic and other social supports to help minimise the ongoing effect of GBV and the continued suffering of women’s a result of sexual assault.
1 UNOCHA (2016) DRC – Overview of the humanitarian needs in 2016 (French) p3
2 Extrapolated from 2015 UNHCR protection monitoring report 2015, which reported that 3000 cases of sexual violence occurred in all South Kivu.
Cecilia, 40 years old, came to the SARCAF office, Shabunda counselling center in February 2016, asking for help. She told her story to the psychological assistant who received her. In June 2015, more than 15 men from an armed group attacked her house and demanded money. 5 men raped her and four others raped her daughter while others took and destroyed the property she had. Cecilia fled to seek safety but on the way her daughter died from her injuries. Cecilia buried her daughter at a local church in Shabunda. She arrived at SARCAF with her three remaining children, all hungry and distressed. After the psychological assistant listened to her story and provided her with immediate psychological first aid, he referred her to the general hospital. She spent more than 3 months in Shabunda hospital receiving treatment for injuries and infections. Cecilia joined the micro-finance and savings group in her neighborhood and received financial support. She decided to invest in sewing. Her husband has still not returned but she is managing to feed her children every day and is planning to send them to school.