Source: The Telegraph
William Hague, the foreign secretary, has announced Britain will spend £180m on a five-year healthcare programme in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

During a visit to the country with Angelina Jolie to highlight the issue of rape as a "weapon of war", Mr Hague said the fund would fund will provide essential healthcare in an effort to bring peace.


"As we have travelled around the area, I have been struck not only by the human cost of these crimes but also by the limited facilities and resources available to support survivors," Mr Hague said.

"As part of the work I am championing to tackling the culture of impunity for sexual violence in conflict I have announced project funding to help increase capacity for investigating sexual violence crimes."

The assistance was "essential to help create sustainable peace and security in DRC", he added.

The British programme will operate across 10 per cent of the country, rebuilding clinics, training health staff, supplying medicines and equipment, and improving water and sanitation.

During the visit Mr Hague spoke to women subjected to vicious sexual attacks.

The women spoke of their ordeal and told the pair how they were raped while fleeing violence in the country.

They also met children as young as five in the Nzolo and Lac Vert village camps, who were sexually abused at the hands of the Congolese Army.

Mr Hague said that he would ask other foreign ministers from the Group of Eight world powers at a meeting next month to make "practical commitments" aimed at tackling rape and sexual assault in conflict zones.

As part of the wider package of funds, Britain pledged more than £205,000 to Physicians for Human Rights, an independent organisation, which uses medicine and science to combat rights violations, works from the hospital known for its support for sexual violence survivors.

The money will enable the provision of ultrasound machines, locked evidence cabinets and solar-powered medical headlamps that can be used to support investigations.

Mr Hague also announced £850,000 over three years to support the Women's Initiative for Gender, which works in armed conflict areas including DRC and pushes for gender justice through the International Criminal Court.

Bad weather prevented Mr Hague and Ms Jolie, a UN special envoy, from visiting the Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, the Foreign Office in London said.

Without the work at the Panzi Hospital, "many women would not have survived the vicious attacks that they were subjected to," Mr Hague said.

"There is an enormous human cost associated with rape and sexual violence, and there is an urgent need for the international community to act to prevent these crimes and support victims.

"At the meeting of G8 foreign ministers in London on April 11, I will be asking countries to make practical commitments so that we can erode and one day shatter the culture of impunity for those who use rape as a weapon of war."

In place of the planned visit to Panzi, Jolie and Mr Hague visited the HEAL Africa hospital in Goma which treats rape victims and also offers counselling and help with setting up micro-enterprise schemes.

Mr Hague and Jolie are calling on the G8 to agree that rape and sexual violence constitute breaches of the Geneva Conventions governing warfare.

They also want a new international protocol on the documentation and investigation of the issue.

The campaign will also be taken to the UN Security Council in June and the UN General Assembly in September.

Foreign Secretary William Hague (C) and UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie (R) listening to refugees on March 25 during a visit to the Nzolo refugee camp in Democratic Republic of Congo.

Foreign Secretary William Hague and UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie (R) listening to refugees on March 25 during a visit to the Nzolo refugee camp in Democratic Republic of Congo Photo: IGGY ROBERTS/AFP/Getty Images
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