IMA World Health/Staff
Recent conflict in the eastern province of North Kivu in the Democratic Republic of Congo has seemingly set the stage for more fighting in the embattled country. On November 20, rebel soldiers from the “M23” militia captured the provincial capital of Goma. For more than two weeks, hundreds of these rebel soldiers occupied the area in and around the city. Though we do not know an exact number, there have been reported deaths and looting of homes and businesses as a result of this occupation. Tens of thousands were reportedly displaced due to the violence.
Due to international pressure, the rebels have pulled out of the city and are now in negotiations with the government to create a lasting peace agreement through talks brokered by officials in Uganda.
While at IMA World Health we are earnestly praying for peace and healing in Eastern Congo and are waiting to see what happens next, there is work to be done.
Goma is the headquarters of the USAID-funded USHINDI program that IMA World Health has overseen since 2010. USHINDI’s purpose is to combat sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) in 10 health zones in Eastern Congo, where 48 women are raped every hour, according to a 2011 study published in the American Journal of Public Health. Through USHINDI, IMA and partners provide medical care, psychosocial counseling, legal support and economic support to survivors (primarily women) of SGBV. The program also strives to change attitudes toward women and traditional gender roles through education and community awareness campaigns.
Fortunately, we have learned that all IMA World Health and partner staff based in Goma and the surrounding areas are safe at this time. Our implementing partners are continuing program activities outside Goma at several health districts that are not affected by conflict. We are continually assessing the situation to ensure that our work continues to support those affected by sexual and gender-based violence in our target areas of Eastern Congo.
Please join us in praying for peace and stability for the nation, safety for our staff and all who live and work there, and momentum to continue moving forward toward health and development goals.