By Ebi Kesiena
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has decried the surge in gender-based violence in the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), noting that it is actively engaged in addressing the issue.
According to the UN deputy humanitarian coordinator for the DRC, Suzanna Tkalec, efforts are underway in collaboration with other humanitarian agencies to respond to and alleviate the increasing incidents of gender-based violence.
Speaking at a briefing in Washington, Tkalec highlighted the critical situation faced by women and girls in the provinces of North Kivu, South Kivu, and Ituri, adding that women in these provinces continue to be exposed to alarming rates of violence.
Reacting to a recent report by Doctors Without Borders, Tkalec revealed that approximately 90,000 women and girls sought medical assistance after experiencing assault and rape this year. The report indicated that those who came forward likely represent only a fraction of the total number of victims.
Tkalec noted that survivors may also encounter difficulties in accessing essential gender-based violence services or reporting their abuse due to fear of stigmatization by their communities or retaliation by perpetrators.
“A lot of this is really due to the extreme vulnerability of women and girls,” Tkalec stated.
However, Tkalec noted that OCHA’s ability to provide assistance is constrained, as its 2023 humanitarian response plan is only 38% funded, adding that the ongoing competition among emerging crises globally has caused the DRC to fall down the priority list for international attention.
Therefore, the humanitarian coordinator urged increased support and resources to address the pressing issue of gender-based violence, emphasizing the urgent need for collective efforts to protect and assist the affected women and girls in the eastern part of the DRC.