"Esteemed Congolese gynecologist, Dr. Denis Mukwege, has been awarded the 2010/2011 King Baudouin International Development Prize for his commitment to helping thousands of women victims of rape and war crimes in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Dr. Mukwege founded Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, which offers free, comprehensive care for women victims. The specialized treatment offered at Panzi Hospital integrates psychological and physical treatment with social support to help cope with the stigma many victims face after they are assaulted. In the past 10 years, Dr. Mukwege and his team have treated more than 30,000 victims of sexual violence. The prevalence of rape in the Democratic Republic of Congo is widely recognized as one of the highest in the world. In the war-torn region, it is estimated that hundreds of thousands of women have been raped or severely maimed. Sexual violence is used as a weapon of war by rebel forces, strategically perpetrated to institute a reign of fear in order to seize control of mineral-rich areas.
Beyond his work at Panzi Hospital, Dr. Mukwege has also gained recognition for advocating tirelessly on behalf of the victims of sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo. At risk to his own life, he has appealed to policymakers for increased protection for the women of the region and championed an integrated health care system that meets the unique challenges of violence and chaos in the Congo.
Dr. Peter Piot, Chairman of the King Baudouin Foundation and Director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said: "Dr. Mukwege is one of Africa's great humanitarians whose work is a source of hope and inspiration for people across the African continent. Through his work as a doctor and advocate, Dr. Mukwege is shining a spotlight on one of the most pervasive and pernicious human rights abuses in the world – violence against women. His dedication and commitment to this issue are a perfect fit with the values of the Prize."Dr. Mukwege received the Prize at the Royal Palace in Brussels, at a ceremony attended by King Albert II and Queen Paola of Belgium and other esteemed guests such as Margot Wallstrom, Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict.
"It is a privilege and an honor for me to be receiving the King Baudouin International Development Prize. Most importantly, I am grateful for the opportunity to reiterate the critical need for all of us to take action for women in the Democratic Republic of Congo. We cannot risk being silent on this grave injustice – destroying women means destroying life," said Dr. Mukwege. The King Baudouin International Development Prize was established in 1978 to recognize and support pioneers who have made outstanding contributions to addressing key challenges and advancing social progress in the developing world. The Prize winner receives 150,000 euros (approximately US$210,000) and the opportunity to meet leaders of key international organizations such as the World Bank, the United Nations and the European Union. Past recipients of the Prize include such distinguished humanitarians and advocates as Ousmane Sy and Paulo Freire, both now recognized around the world for their innovative contributions to critical development challenges." (AllAfrica)