The award-winning Uruguayan actor and star of Argentine television, Osvaldo Laport, has expressed horror at the abuse suffered by women in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) after returning from a visit to the war-ravaged region as a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
“Today, almost a month since my return and back among my family, I’m still struggling to cope with the emotions that I wake up with nearly every morning – the images and the sadness,” Mr. Laport told UNHCR in an interview following the trip.
Mr. Laport said he was stunned by the “degradation, discrimination and mutilation of women,” adding that the “terrible realities of the countless cases of rape, which occur each month in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, make me feel ashamed of my gender.”
After his visit to North Kivu, one of the provinces most affected by armed clashes in the DRC, the Goodwill Ambassador underscored the importance for children of internally displaced persons (IDPs) to attend school and stressed the need to address gender-based violence.
Mr. Laport said that he would never forget the difficult emotions he felt when talking to women.
“I cannot stop asking for forgiveness. On the one hand there needs to be punishment for these crimes, and on the other a vast team of specialists and professionals to help the victims psychologically,” said Mr. Laport.
The UN Monday warned of a mounting humanitarian crisis in eastern DRC, with almost 537,000 people currently displaced in South Kivu province alone, due to insecurity and an ongoing military operation in the region.
Since the launch of a Government offensive against various rebel militia about six months ago, an estimated total of 1.5 million people have fled their homes in North and South Kivu provinces, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), bringing the total number of IDPs in the DRC to 2 million.
OCHA said that a significant number of attacks launched by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) – a Ugandan rebel group notorious for recruiting children as soldiers and sex slaves – since September 2008 in Oriental Province in eastern DRC have caused some 218,000 people to flee the violence.
Mr. Laport said that his experience in the DRC helped him understand that there “were no immediate solutions to the scale of this humanitarian tragedy, or others like it.
“I do think we have to work to increase the spirit of collaboration in people, so that it crosses borders and helps relieve the weight of pain that refugees have to carry.”
Click here to learn more about the Democratic Republic of the Congo on the UNHCR website.