Doctor Denis Mukwege repairs damaged women, helping each find a little dignity where they had only shame.
The doctor is quick to smile; his tired eyes shine with kindness, but also with anger at the unspeakable things done to the mothers and daughters of his community, tens of thousands of them, by men without conscience. Where they torture and violate, Dr. Mukwege and his staff heal.
This year alone 3,500 women were treated at Panzi Hospital, located on the outskirts of Bukavu, just down the bumpy road from one of the several UN peacekeeping bases around the city. Most of the women come here with internal wounds, including fistulas, humiliating and painful effects of their violation. The other type of internal damage is psychological, and can last a lifetime. The only good news is that most of the time this physical damage can be fixed with a simple procedure, restoring at least the bodies of the women who come here.
A few dozen women who come here each year cannot be cured, and will live with the damage forever. Most of them will not be welcomed back to their communities, or by their husbands. Doctor Mukwege is undeterred by the enormous challenge of caring for so many- he is working to open a new transit center here at Panzi for these incurable women called the City of Joy; here at least they will be welcomed.
As we stand up to leave his office he hands us each a small Congolese flag, as a gift.
“Don’t forget the Congo,” he says softly.
As if I ever could, after coming here to Panzi.
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Posted By: Michael Graham | December 01, 2007 | Comments (2)