The people of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have endured decades of civil war, a period over which 5.4 million Congolese died from violence, hunger and disease. While the war officially came to an end years ago, the eastern region of DRC remains one of the world’s worst humanitarian crisis zones. Violence remains a constant threat and the UN estimates that 54,000 women have reported being raped since 2004. However, this number is likely to be much higher, as many women fear coming forward because they are often ostracised from their communities and forced to abandon their livelihoods. Rebel groups fight for control of the country’s vast natural resources terrorising civilians and causing millions to suffer from ongoing conflict and displacement.
*Please note the images used on this page are not of survivors of sexual or gender based violence
International Medical Corps began working in DRC in 1999. We have since served more than one million people, 80 percent of whom were displaced by the war. Today, we provide health care, nutrition, food security, sexual violence prevention and treatment, and water and sanitation services in some of DRC’s most remote and volatile areas, often where the presence of other international organisations is extremely limited or non-existent.
In 2010, International Medical Corps was awarded a five-year cooperative grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) as part of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s pledge to address sexual violence during her trip to DRC.
Taking a holistic approach to rape and sexual violence in eastern DRC, the Care, Access, Safety, & Empowerment (CASE) and Behaviour Change Communication (BCC) programmes build the capacity of the health sector so that survivors have better access to quality medical services, as well as psychosocial care, legal support, and skills-building and educational opportunities. To prevent future cases, International Medical Corps is engaging communities in the fight against GBV to change public attitudes and opinions on gender and violence.
Care, Access, Safety, and Empowerment (CASE)
As early medical treatment is critical, International Medical Corps trains health care workers in compassionate clinical care for female and male sexual assault survivors. We train health care workers to provide confidential, consent-based referrals so that survivours have access to medical services as well as psychosocial, livelihood and legal support if desired. International Medical Corps also works with national health authorities to provide critical medicines and health equipment, infrastructure rehabilitation, and monitoring and facility support.
Through CRCs, International Medical Corps offers skills-building and educational opportunities to vulnerable men and women, including survivors of GBV. These learning opportunities empower survivors in their recovery and increase their opportunities to earn income. International Medical Corps is working with communities to explore additional livelihoods activities that will be most beneficial to vulnerable women.
Behaviour Change Communication (BCC)
Integrated into CASE, the BCC program considers the consequences of GBV not only for the survivors, but also for families and communities as a whole. Together with Search for Common Ground and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Communications, the BCC program targets various groups to change societal, community and individual attitudes and behaviours concerning gender and violence. Using popular music, community theatre, youth events, radio soap operas, public service announcements and local community organisations, the BCC program aims to reduce stigma and foster more supportive communities for survivors and their families.
International Medical Corps also trains and engages health service providers, teachers, youth workers, community and religious leaders, and law enforcement officials in the prevention of GBV and compassionate support for survivors.
In addition to supporting existing health facilities and providing mobile medical services, International Medical Corps works in close collaboration with the Ministry of Health and non-governmental organizations to increase the number of well-trained health professionals in DRC.
International Medical Corps not only provides direct care for malnourished people, but also works to create more sustainable solutions to hunger by engaging parents in the fight against malnutrition. To help parents take control of their families’ nutritional needs, International Medical Corps provides them with the education materials, tools and training to grow their own staple crops.
In all of our health programmes, International Medical Corps staff integrate messages about the importance of water purification, proper hand washing and personal hygiene to remaining healthy. This increases the likelihood that local people will remember these messages and follow up in their own homes.
International Medical Corps UK recognises the invaluable support of the following European donors to make our work possible.