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Jessica Lange in DR Congo

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Jessica Lange, UNICEF’s newest Goodwill Ambassador, calls for the world to ‘stop the horror’ in the Democratic Republic of Congo

From 7 to 10 August 2003, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Jessica Lange visited the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to help draw attention to the impact on children and women of the now five-year-long conflict, and to denounce the endemic use of sexual violence as a weapon of war.

Brutal and sometimes systematic rape has been used against many thousands of girls and women in the region - including the provinces of North Kivu, South Kivu and the Ituri region of Oriental Province. “Of the women and children who survive the stunning brutality, the physical, emotional and pyschological damage will last a lifetime,” said Ms Lange. “The world must stop the horror and help the survivors. And those responsible must be brought to justice.”

Some 6 million people continue to be affected by the conflict in eastern DRC, with hundreds of thousands victimized in atrocities that are committed with impunity. The accompanying rise in poverty, displacement and sexual violence has also brought increased rates of HIV/AIDS infection. Recent data from rape victims being treated at Punzi Hospital in the town of Bukavu, found that 27 per cent are HIV positive.

During her visit to Bukavu and the towns of Goma and Bunia, Ms. Lange met victims of sexual violence, representatives from women’s organizations, HIV/AIDS peer educators, demobilized child soldiers, health workers, displaced children and families, local government authorities and humanitarian aid partners.

To support assistance programmes in the region, UNICEF issued an emergency donor appeal for US $46.6 million in May, of which only 22 per cent had been funded by late July.