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Christian charity warns of sexual violence in DRC

by Hannah Tooley

Tearfund has launched an emergency appeal to help address conflict-related sexual violence against females in the central African country.

It is estimated 1.8 million women having been targeted.

Violence in the DRC since 1999 is thought to have claimed up to six million lives.

Tearfund wants believers to turn their attention to the country and help survivors recover from trauma.

It wants to help rebuild livelihoods and ensure access to safe water and sanitation.

Sexual violence has plagued the conflict and stopping it remains one of the most critical challenges.

Thousands of women and girls are raped each day and live in threat from armed militias, the military and even the police.

More than 25 armed groups operate in the east of DRC and women and girls are routinely subjected to sexual violence.

It is thought that sexual violence is not just used a weapon of war but also to spread fear and intimidate others.

Tearfund cites harmful social norms and gender inequality among the root causes of sexual violence.

48-year-old Annamaria, which is not her real name, was raped in her home by four men in front of her husband.

Her husband was killed afterwards and Annamaria's children fled and disappeared.

She told the charity: "The men who attacked me took everything, my body, my health, my husband.

"My children fled.

"They destroyed my field, my home.

"I felt like a refugee and I didn't know how to live."

Tearfund's Country Director for the DRC, David McAllister said: "Horrific crimes, including rape, are being committed against women and girls in the DRC on a daily basis.

"The conflict seems to have been forgotten by the media, but the scale of the humanitarian crisis continues to grow.

"In addition to the six million lives lost since the beginning of the conflict in 1999, brutal violence, including the threat of rape, has forced 2.7 million people to flee their homes."

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