In the heart of Africa, after a lengthy journey along a sienna dirt road cut through mountainous jungle on the eastern side of the Democratic Republic of Congo, within sight of the border with Rwanda and one of the bloodiest tribal-civil wars ever known, we arrived at Panzi Hospital in Bukavu.
It was there that I first met Dr. Denis Mukwege, a gynecological surgeon and founder of the hospital. With a towering presence, a disarming smile and a soft, soothing voice, he is a source of strength and sanctuary in a land of violence and despair—a forgotten war. The son of a Pentecostal pastor, he is guided by the Hippocratic oath and an indomitable commitment to justice on his own mission to save these communities one woman at a time.
What Dr. Mukwege and his team at Panzi Hospital do is extraordinary. Theirs is a reality where 48 women in the DRC are raped every hour, according to a 2011 report. They have treated more than 46,000 victims of sexual- and gender-based violence—6-year-olds and octogenarians alike. Beyond healer to these women and girls, Dr. Mukwege is hope.
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