Mukwege calls for overcoming hatred with love.
Mukwege calls for overcoming hatred with love.
Great to see Dr. Mukwege strong in spirit and words.
It’s been a rough few days at Panzi hospital. The attack on Dr. Mukwege last Thursday night and the death of his employee, who was a long-time friend, was shocking and heart-wrenching. You can read the press release from Panzi Foundation USA in the previous post. No further statements are being made at this time.
Today was the first full day back at work for most staff. People are solemn and concerned but clearly committed to the mission of the hospital and providing quality medical care. Even though the staff number over 350 people, they are like a large extended family that has rallied around the Mukweges. Equally impressive is the calmness, professionalism, and team approach used by staff in response to Thursday night’s tragedy.
Thanks to every one who has emailed or called to make sure we are all doing okay. The out-pouring of support has been tremendous. Many of us have had little sleep since Thursday as we grapple with what’s transpired and the implications. But I feel safe here and have no security concerns beyond the usual for day-to-day life in a city.
My time in Congo, 2 months now, has been productive but is winding down. I have this week at the hospital, then to Nairobi for a week-long conference of African women activists. I will return for one final week at Panzi. While I look forward to the conference and being home, I’m incredibly sad about leaving. There’s so much work to be done.
Last Thursday, the same day as the attack, a few of us got involved with a particular case at the hospital. There is a 5 year-old-boy with terrible burns on his face and body and a malformed hand, likely a birth defect. We’re hopeful that one of the doctors (who offered to perform the procedure for less than $100) can do skin grafts this week. He’ll need plastic surgery after that for severe disfigurement but there’s only one doctor with limited experience at Panzi. We may need to look elsewhere for an appropriate surgeon. This is the most difficult situation I’ve experienced in my life. It’s hard not to look away. But Mukamba is my buddy now and today I got a high-five when I asked him if he is my “rafiki” (friend). He’s been at the hospital with his dad since June but money ran out. I feel fortunate that we can help this little guy.
Then there’s the young woman at Panzi with what appears to have a paralyzed arm who asked if we could help, and my taxi driver’s sister-in-law who, according to the 4-year-old scans she gave me to have a doctor review, has some sort of tumor behind the eye. The fact that she’s still alive means it’s probably benign but it’s causing her debilitating pain. There’s no neurosurgeon at Panzi so she’ll have to go to Uganda or Rwanda. There’s no way they can afford that.
Of course I’m worried about all 24 “moms” too, who participated in my focus groups last week. They are plagued by stigma, poverty, and the struggle to accept their children born of rape.
I know that all of this is horribly depressing. And some days it is emotionally draining. Right after I met Mukamba the first time, someone asked me, “How did that go?” I walked into the office and burst into tears. I can only imagine what it must be like on a daily basis for a Panzi doctor or nurse.
That’s why the attack on Dr. Mukwege is so maddening. The man who dedicates his life to saving others, almost lost his own due to senseless violence. His days are filled with illness and injury at Panzi yet he and his staff keep going, inspired by those they serve and their passion for medicine. This is what compelled me to co-found Panzi Foundation USA. I wanted to help Dr. Mukwege realize his vision for healing bodies, restoring dignity, and improving lives. While the assault last week resulted in tremendous loss, the spirit of Panzi remains intact for the mamas and the Mukambas of Congo who deserve life and hope.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Hollidaysburg, PA, October 28, 2012 – Panzi Foundation USA is shocked and saddened by the recent attack on our co-founder, Dr. Denis Mukwege, and the murder of his long-time employee. As widely reported in the media, several armed men entered Dr. Mukwege’s home in the Democratic Republic of Congo Thursday evening and held his daughters at gunpoint while they awaited his return home. Dr. Mukwege and his family were unhurt; the gunmen escaped and have not been apprehended.
Dr. Mukwege is founder and director of Panzi Hospital, located in the city of Bukavu in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Both Dr. Mukwege and the hospital have developed international renown for their dedication to treating women who have been devastated by rape and other sexual violence that is widespread in the region.
Dr. Lee Ann De Reus, who co-founded Panzi Foundation USA with Dr. Muwkege, has been living and working at Panzi Hospital for several months while on a research sabbatical from Penn State University. Dr. De Reus noted that the Panzi community is relieved that Dr. Mukwege was unharmed but devastated by the murder of his long-time employee and friend.
“We are still reeling from the tragedy here in Bukavu but remain strong in our support of Dr. Mukwege and the mission of Panzi Hospital,” said Dr. De Reus. “Our hearts, thoughts, and prayers are with him, his family, and the family of his friend who was killed.”
Many have condemned the attack on Dr. Mukwege’s home, including United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, V-Day founder and playwright Eve Ensler, and Physicians for Human Rights, a U.S.-based humanitarian group. According to the Secretary-General, “Dr. Mukwege’s extraordinary and heroic work has saved the lives of tens of thousands of Congolese, many thousands of them women and girls who have been the victims of sexual violence in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. He continues to be a force for good, and Panzi Hospital a haven for the most vulnerable,” said Ki-moon.
Dr. Mukwege’s honors for his work with survivors of sexual violence include the United Nations Human Rights Prize, the Olof Palme Prize, and the Clinton Global Citizen Award, as well as nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize. He recently served on a high-level panel appointed by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to document and detail sexual violence in eastern DRC.
Panzi Foundation USA supports Panzi Hospital with funding, equipment, and technical assistance in order to provide access to high-quality health care despite an environment of extreme poverty, minimal infrastructure, and endemic violence. For more information, visit http://www.panzifoundation.org
So glad to have Mami back in Bukavu! She journeyed here from Rutshuru last night as I have hired her to assist with my research project on mothers’ acceptance and/or rejection of children born from sexual violence. This is a new experience for her so we spent some time in training. She will facilitate the focus groups over the next several days. It’s terrific to have her here and out of M23 territory – at least for the time being. My former translator and dear friend Roger was kind enough to provide room and board for Mami for her and her 3-year-old son, Giffen. When I showed her the pictures I had of other women with signs (many posted at this blog), she asked if she could pose, too. Below is her picture and a quote from her.
© Lee Ann De Reus and leeanndereus.com, 2012.
On any given day at Panzi Hospital, there are over 200 women receiving treatment for their injuries due to sexualized violence. Recently, I asked a group of women if they would like to share a quote about their thoughts on the situation in Congo. Here is what they said….
“Women from Congo need peace. We refuse violence.” – Fadhili, age 30
“The situation is not stable in Congo. We are being raped. We don’t like that.” – Neema, age 23
“Peace is all we need. My parents were killed. I was raped. Peace is all I need.” – Furaha, age 22
“People have deserted the village because there is no peace. Peace must be restored so that we can come back home.” – Amani, age 48
When Dr. Mukwege, chief surgeon at Panzi Hospital, asked me in 2009 to help him start a foundation in the US, to support initiatives of the hospital, little did I know such an incredible journey would unfold! It is a privilege to do this work, along with co-founder/executive director Peter Frantz, and all the generous, caring people who have joined our efforts to help women in the DR Congo.
The purpose of Panzi Foundation USA is to help survivors of sexual violence heal, live, hope.
How they heal - Women who come to Panzi hospital receive life-saving treatment for their injuries due to sexualized violence.
How they live - The Maison Dorcas transit/safe house provides literacy and vocational training for women still under medical care or who have no place to go due to abandonment.
How they hope - Despite severe trauma, the women of Panzi hospital maintain hope for the future. Panzi Foundation USA helps foster that confidence through support of Panzi’s many programs. Want to make a difference? Visit www.panzifoundation.org.
© Lee Ann De Reus and leeanndereus.com, 2012