With joy and relief, today I welcomed to the European Commission Dr Denis Mukwege. Medical Director at the Panzi Hospital in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Dr Mukwege has an immensely difficult and important job – to save, heal and return the dignity of thousands of women who are victims of sexual violence. In late October he narrowly escaped death himself, when armed men attacked him in his home and killed a member of his staff.
For its patients, Panzi hospital is an island of hope and care in a sea of violence. When I visited there last March, I met a 6-year-old girl; I thought she was there because her mother was a patient. But it turned out the girl was a rape victim herself. In DRC there are thousands and thousands of tragic stories like hers, and this has not been a good year, since the number of internally displaced people has grown to 2 400 000. Dr Mukwenge’s determination is one of the few glimmers of hope.
I am heartbroken to know that an attack can be carried against a man who does so much good for his people, relieved to have him with us, and sorry for the loss of his saviour. I also find what he said incredibly noble – that violence breeds violence and the only way to fight it is with hope and care. Today we discussed how we can step up European humanitarian aid in the DRC in a way that creates more opportunities for self-reliance and a dignified life for his patients once they leave Panzi Hospital.
I am touched that Dr Mukwege intends to go back to his hospital – for the women who count on him. And I am determined that we have to do more to help his patients, because unfortunately, the conditions demand it from us.
You can also read about Dr Mukwege’s visit on the page of my colleague and fellow blogger, the Commissioner for Development Andris Piebalgs.