British Foreign Secretary William Hague and actress Angelina Jolie this week visited a displacement camp in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo where the International Rescue Committee is working to prevent violence against women and girls.

Hague and Jolie, in her role as a United Nations refugee agency special envoy, met with IRC staff and displaced women at Nzulo camp near Goma, the capital of North Kivu province. The camp shelters more than 10,000 of the estimated 218,000 people who have been uprooted by armed conflict in the region over the past year.

Camps like Nzulo and other makeshift settlements are often not a safe refuge for women and girls, who risk attack as they collect firewood or water, try to find assistance to support themselves and their families, or walk around at night.

While violence against women and girls is ever present in Congo, displacement over the past year has only exacerbated the problem. The IRC has seen a marked increase in violence against women and girls in North and South Kivu, peaking in September, when the number of cases reported was 190 percent higher than the 2011 monthly average.

“Women and girls have been on the frontline of the crisis in Congo for too long,” says Elinor Raikes, the IRC’s deputy regional director. “The recent conflict has put them at even more risk from sexual and physical violence. Violence against women and girls takes place in every conflict, which is why it is essential to prevent abuse in the first place and support survivors as they resume their role as leaders within their families and communities.”

Source: International Rescue Committee

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