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Rape survivors need better emergency care - MSF

[DRC] A 13-year-old girl, raped by armed men, waits for treatment in a health clinic in Goma, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, August 2006. During five years of armed conflict in the DRC, tens of thousands of women and girls have suffered crimes of s
Une fillette de 13 ans, violée par des individus armés, attend d’être soignée dans un centre de santé de Goma, dans l’est de la République démocratique du Congo, en août 2006 (Tiggy Ridley/IRIN)

People who have suffered sexual violence in countries facing humanitarian crises need much more accessible, comprehensive and confidential care than is currently available, says a new report by the international medical charity, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).

"We find that the specific emergency care needed for victims of rape is either very rare or completely absent in the countries where we operate," said Thilde Knudsen, MSF's sexual and reproductive health advisor. "The damage cannot be completely undone; some level of psychological impact is likely to remain for life."

In the report, Shattered Lives, released on 5 March, ahead of International Women's Day on 8 March, MSF highlights its experience with sexual violence in Burundi, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia and South Africa.

As part of the comprehensive care required for sexual violence victims MSF lists counselling, post-exposure prophylaxis to prevent HIV-infection, treatment for other sexually transmitted infections, such as Hepatitis-B, tetanus injections for those physically injured, and emergency contraception.

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"With the right package of timely medical care, coupled with trauma counselling and social and legal support, the damage can be limited and the victim helped to survive," Knudsen stressed.

MSF also said aggressive awareness-raising campaigns were necessary to break social taboos and encourage survivors of sexual violence - including male survivors, who often went unrecognised and untreated - to report.

"Our teams hear painful stories of horrible abuse every day," said Meinie Nicolai, operational director of MSF in Belgium. "There can be no excuse for sexual violence, no matter how prevalent these violations may be in some of the places where we work."


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information:

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