Melanie Blanding

1Doctors on Call for Service (DOCS) treat victims of sexual violence in Goma, North Kivu, including this woman who’s eye was gauged with a stick. Some women suffered more severe damage than others. DOCS performed surgeries on each of them, but when surgery proved unsuccessful, the organization rented land to house 18 women in Ndosho, a community just outside Goma. Construction is underway in the area for a permanent dwelling place for the women to reside

DOCS (Doctors on Call for Service), of Goma, North Kivu, treat women who have suffered sexual violence during attacks by soldiers and rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Tendine’s elderly mother, Bilazi, carried her daughter by foot for two weeks to get to Panzi Hospital from Shabunda, some 400-odd kilometers away. Tendine was attacked and raped by Interhamwe rebels. “We want peace,” Tendine said. “People cannot live their lives”. Tendine lived at Panzi for about a year while she received medical treatment.

Maria, 22, of Kindu, Maniema, undergoes surgery to repair a fistula at DOCS (Doctors on Call for Service) HEAL Africa clinic in Goma, North Kivu. A fistula is a tear in the vaginal tissue, leaving the patient incontinent. Urine and feces leaks from a woman’s body like a toilet that never stops flushing. The smell is pervasive and women often leave messes left on furniture. Many women are abandoned by their families and avoid social situations that may expose them. Often, the physical damage is so severe that women require three to six surgeries to fully recover. They must wait three months between each surgery.

Henriette, 35, and her eight-month-old twins spend each evening at “House Two” – a facility rented by Panzi Hospital to house more than 100 other women in the VVS program. The hospital rents two such houses to accommodate the average 250 women in the program at any given time.

Margarita, of Burundi, makes the two-hour ride from a clinic in Kamanyola, South Kivu, in a Panzi Hospital Ambulance. Margarita was attacked by soldiers and will receive treatment for her injuries through the hospital’s VVS program. Panzi Hospital sends an ambulance to Kamanyola, a village south of Bukavu, periodically to pick up VVS patients and bring them to Panzi for treatment.

Women are transferred to the post operation ward to recover from fistula surgery at Panzi Hospital. Hours after coming out of surgery, one young woman whimpered and shivered under her light blanket until pain medication took effect and allowed her to sleep

After Interhamwe rebels attacked her village killing her father, Eugenie, 18, of Kamituga, experienced psychological disorientation. Later, Eugenie’s baby died during labor and delivery, and she was left with a prolapsed uterus and fistula. By the time she arrived at Panzi Hospital, Eugenie needed 12 blood transfusions before doctors were able to perform surgery

A friend braids Madeleine’s hair while she cares for another woman’s child one morning at Panzi Hospital. Most women suffer severe psychological trauma after the attacks. Madeleine spent time cradling other women’s babies every day before her surgery, which may have been a response to the loss of her only child while she was captive in a rebel village.

July 7, 2006 marked the second of four days in a row that the Panzi community was without water, due to a lack of rain during the dry season. Women from Panzi Hospital’s VVS program scouted for water near the Rwandan border. Locals said that sometimes the city is left for weeks without water during the dry season. Women are especially susceptible to attack by rebels while they perform daily chores such as carrying water, collecting firewood or working in the agriculture fields.


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