Dr. Denis Mukwege is 1 of 2 recipients of the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize for his “efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict.” Almost 2 decades ago, Dr. Mukwege set up the Panzi hospital in Bukavu, a city that lies in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is here that he practiced gynecology with the intent to help women who had been injured during childbirth. However, after treating his patient who had been a victim of rape and mutilation, he quickly changed his professional focus.
What first started out as a makeshift care facility made of tents, the Panzi hospital has become one of the major health facilities in the country of Congo. With over 350 staff members, the hospital treats close to 400,000 patients from DR Congo and close-by countries in Africa as well. Dr. Mukwege himself has aided in the treatment and reconstructive surgery of tens of thousands of rape victims – sometimes performing multiple surgeries per day.
The DR of Congo is a country rich in deposits of gold and other minerals. Whereas some countries face rage and conflict in the face of religious indifference, the DR of Congo finds its source of genocide to be of economic influence. In recent years, the country has been unofficially labeled the ‘rape capital of the world’ and as such, many Congolese women have fallen victim to the inhumane and cruel fate of the title.
Dr. Mukwege has personally faced violence towards himself and his family during his time working in DR of Congo. At one point, after being held at gunpoint and his daughters’ safety was compromised, he decided to move to Sweden with his family in search of protection. However, Denis quickly realized that the solution to ending the violence in Congo was not to hide from danger but to continue to help those in the only way he knew he could make a huge difference. He has since moved back to DR of Congo after local women raised funds for his ticket and now resides under heavy security in the hospital.
Dr. Denis Mukwege is thrilled to accept such a prestigious award, but he knows that his work is far from over. While he continues to operate and treat Congolese women of rape, he is also dedicated to raising awareness within the Congolese government to take action against this violence.
To read more about Denis Mukwege and the other recipient of the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize, visit the Nobel Prize’s official website here.