The novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is a global humanitarian crisis. Peace Boat supports the efforts of Japanese non-profit RITA-Congo to raise funds to support Dr Denis Mukwege’s Panzi Hospital in the conflict-affected Democratic Republic of the Congo, as it struggles against both the threat of the COVID-19 contagion and the impacts caused by closed borders.
Dr Denis Mukwege has been providing vital support for victims of sexual violence in the DRC. Based at the Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, in the eastern part of the country, Dr Mukwege has treated more than 50,000 victims to date and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2018 for his efforts. Peace Boat had the honour of coordinating his first visit to Hiroshima last October, in cooperation with local non-profit organisation ANT-Hiroshima.
The DRC declared a state of emergency and closed its borders in March, leaving many people with a critical shortage of daily necessities, as well as a lack of hospital supplies. Against this backdrop, Dr Mukwege sent a request for assistance to RITA-Congo (formerly the Association on Sexual Violence and Conflict in DR Congo, ASVCC).
In response, the organisation launched a campaign for donations, to be used for material support for the Panzi Hospital to become a base to treat COVID-19 infected persons, and encourage the community to take preventive measures at the same time.
The first shipment of donations through this effort of N95 masks, infrared thermometers and protective clothing was sent to the Panzi Hospital in April, as seen in a video message shared by RITA-Congo. In this message, Dr Mukwege expresses his appreciation to the representatives of RITA-Congo Hanai Kazuyo and Yonekawa Masako, as well as Watanabe Tomoko of ANT-Hiroshima and Peace Boat's Kawasaki Akira.
Photos provided by RITA-Congo
RITA-Congo continues to call for further donations, in order to send more supplies and assistance in the future. Please see here for details of donation methods within Japan, or make an international donation to the Panzi Foundation here.
Further, members of SEMA - the Global Network of Victims and Survivors to End Wartime Sexual Violence - have growing concern about COVID-19’s impact on their communities, survivors, and on those most at risk. SEMA members all agree: though this pandemic greatly affects everyone, its consequences will be disproportionately felt by vulnerable populations around the globe. The Mukwege Foundation is calling for messages of support for survivors on social media, or direct donations to benefit survivors. See their homepage here for details.