’My strategy is to respond to hate with more love, to show that evil will never prevail. My way of giving love is treating the sick and offering them hope.’ (Nobel Peace Prize winner 2018 – Doctor Denis Mukwege)
Denis Mukwege was washing his hands after surgery when he found out he had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize 2018. Stepping out of the operating room, he was greeted by cheers and applause from the patients and colleagues. Dr. Mukwege has been fighting sexual violence; long before the MeToo movement made it a global issue. He has operated on women who were subjected to brutal assaults without ever succumbing to the rage the evil. Instead, he has used his platform to raise awareness about the situation of these women, and as a Nobel Peace Prize winner, he is emphasising that this award also belongs to the women of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Many people are now commenting on the significance of Dr Mukwege’s work, but I think Justine Sirie, a cleaner at Panzi Hospital, said it best: ’Following a rape, Dr Mukwege operated on me seven times. Once I healed physically, Dr Mukwege offered me a job at the hospital, and thanks to that I can support my family. I can afford to pay school fees, and I’ve even bought a small plot of land to grow crops. Words can’t express how much Dr Mukwege has done for women like me. He gives us hope, even in times so hard we feel like our hearts will just give up. He will operate on anyone, no matter their income, ethnic group or religion.’
A few years ago, Denis Mukwege was the target of an assassination attempt, during which his daughters were taken hostage and his close friend and security guard was killed. Dr Mukwege survived and however forced to live in exile. Congolese women started collecting money to pay for his flight back to Congo. Most of them were poor women, selling fruit and vegetables by the side of the road, who didn’t have many pennies to spare. But they knew that when enough people work together, there is no limit to what you can achieve.
Our merging partner Läkarmissionen is the single largest Swedish aid donor to Panzi Hospital and we are proud to be a part it. At Panzi Hospital, besides women, the lives of many severely malnourished children are saved in the special ward supported by Läkarmissionen. The hospital is also equipped to save the lives of premature babies in the neonatal ward that Läkarmissionen has helped fund. The families then receive help to improve their access to food. Without this help, there is a significant risk that the child will need emergency care again.
Let’s hear from Mukwege’s colleagues
Dr Buhendwa, anesthesiologist and long-time colleague:
‘While Dr Mukwege could easily choose to live in Europe, where he and his family would be safe, he has chosen to stay and live here, near his patients and the people he fights to protect with every fibre of his being.’
Sylvie Mwambali, MD and Head of Family Planning at the hospital:
’Dr Mukwege isn’t just a skilled gynaecologist. He is also a humanitarian, fighting for justice on behalf of his patients. Treating a woman who has been raped isn’t like treating a person with malaria. Dr Mukwege has to work under the protection of bodyguards and is a survivor of an attempted assassination. We must stop these rapes now!’
Claes Johan Alexandersson, Läkarmissionen:
The UN characterises the situation in the DR Congo as one of the worst in the world. Around 120 armed groups are currently fighting the Congolese army or each other. Families have been forced to leave their homes to escape the violence. The maternal mortality rate is high, and many children are malnourished. Panzi Hospital, a source of hope, is doing crucial work and needs our help.