DR Congo: South African UN Goodwill Ambassador meets rape survivors

By | 14 March 2008

Women who have survived sexual violence endure a “triple tragedy” – physical, psychological and social – in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), South African singer and United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Goodwill Ambassador Miriam Makeba has said.

Ms. Makeba, on a four-day visit to the capital Kinshasa, is touring small farming projects which seek to help rape survivors feed their families and boost their self-reliance. The women taking part in the scheme have received seeds, tools and agricultural training from FAO.

“Women guarantee the survival of 80 per cent of the households in DRC. Yet despite their crucial role for the well-being of the family, they are frequently victims to rape and sexual violence,” she said, adding that the systematic rape of women in recent years is the “most horrifying feature of the complex emergency” in the vast Central African nation.

In the volatile North Kivu province alone, 27,000 cases of sexual violence were recorded in 2006, the singer, who was appointed FAO Goodwill Ambassador in 1999, noted.

She also pointed out that despite the DRC’s “vast potential for economic growth,” 70 per cent of the population faces food insecurity, malnutrition rates are rising and approximately 3.5 million people have lost their lives in the past two decades to violence, famine and disease.

In concert with other UN agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and local authorities, FAO’s Emergency Coordination and Rehabilitation Unit has helped 500,000 households, or over two million people, and intends to increase their assistance to aid some 800,000 households this year.

The agency’s projects, prioritizing vulnerable groups such as internally displaced persons (IDPs), malnourished children and ex-combatants, have provided farming and fishing equipment, seeds and disease-free plants and road repairs to bolster market access.

“I would like my visit to this country to be an opportunity to renew and strengthen our commitment and ensure that innocent victims suffering from hunger have access to the necessary resources to cultivate their hope for a better life,” said Ms. Makeba, recipient of the 1986 Dag Hammarskjöld Prize for Peace.

While in the DRC, she also plans to visit a project for families impacted by HIV/AIDS, as well as meet with high-ranking Government officials and representative of UN agencies and NGOs.

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