The Life of Dr. Denis Mukwege

by John Cataldo, , April 26, 2010

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There has been a terrible war at hand in the Congo for many years now. It is an ugly war that consists of not just the deaths of soldiers but the desecration of women. Every day, women are raped and murdered with nobody to look to for help, until Denis Mukwege made it his life choice to help these women.

Denis Mukwege was born March 1, 1955, being one of nine children. His father was a Pentecostal minister who would visit hospitals and pray for its patients. He accompanied his father on these journeys and he decided at a young age that he wanted to help these people spiritually but also medically.

He studied medicine in Burundi where, after he finished his studies, he remained to work at Christian Hospital of Lemera in South-Kivu DR Congo. Working at this hospital showed Mukwege what he wanted to do for the rest of his life: help women. He witnessed the difficulty these women had with childbirth. Most cases were because the women were not being safely transported to the hospital, they were usually brought on a donkey while going through labor. Others came to die; the women wait too long to go to the hospital so the long hours of laboring without success eventually killed them. To further help these women he went on to study gynecology at the CHU of Angers in France.

In 1989, after his schooling he returned to work at the Hospital of Lemera. This hospital was closer to the women he was trying to help. His practices became well. He continued his work here until 1996 when the hospital was destroyed in the first civil war of the Congo. Being one of the survivors of this incident he decided to settle in Bukavu.

In Bukavu, Mukwege realized that the same tragedies were occurring there too. The initial idea that Mukwege had was to create a maternity ward with an operating room. As soon as this plan went into effect he saw the atrocities that were happening to women on a daily basis. He first became aware of the epidemic of rape in 1996. "I saw women who had been raped in an extremely barbaric way," Mukwege recalls. "First, the women were raped in front of their children, their husbands and neighbors. Second, the rapes were done by many men at the same time. Third, not only were the women raped, but their vaginas were mutilated with guns and sticks. These situations show that sex was being used as a weapon that is cheap."

This is the origins of Panzi Hospital. In the Congo, women as young as the age of nine are raped every day. Soldiers take wives, daughters or whoever they can find and have their way with them. These women are raped in front of their families and then have their bodies mutilated. Usually the women are gang-raped by large groups of men. The soldiers have no remorse for anything they do so when they are done most of the time they will shoot the women in their vaginas. After this is done all women know is that they can go to Panzi Hospital for help.

The Panzi Hospital consists of about twelve buildings with a total of 334 beds but 250 of them are filled with the women who have been a part of this sexual violence. Panzi Hospital receives about ten women a day who need major surgery because they have been raped.

There is a story of one woman, Nadine, is that can make anyone's jaw drop and stomach turn. "I'm 29 I am from the village of Nindja. Normally there was insecurity in our area. We would hide many nights in the bush. The soldiers found us there. They killed our village chief and his children. We were 50 women. I was with my three children and my older brother; they told him to have sex with me. He refused, so they cut his head and he died." She goes on about how one soldier forced her to drink his urine and eat his feces. After that the same soldier killed ten others and her three children. "They flung my baby's body on the ground like she was garbage," Nadine says. "One after another they raped me. From that my vagina and anus were ripped apart." Finally she tells the reporter, "One of the soldiers cut open a pregnant woman, it was a mature baby and they killed it. They cooked it and forced us to eat it." After that she was able to get away from the soldiers and hide until a man passed. He found her from her smell; she smelt of urine and feces because she could not control either of those actions. The man and others brought her to Panzi Hospital where Dr. Denis Mukwege was able to operate on her mutilated body and put it back together again.

Dr. Denis Mukwege deals with cases like this on an everyday basis. He is one man who decided to do something good in a world of bad. People may think one man can't change anything, but I'm sure you'll get a different answer from the women in the Congo.

Many people think there's nothing they can do but by simply buying a t-shirt from Neovox for $15 all of that money goes directly to Dr. Mukwege's Panzi Hospital. Buying one t-shirt can save ten lives. Contact to purchase a shirt.

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