It's October 4th, 2006 and Anderson Cooper is in Rutshuru, Congo and began AC360 with ~
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening again, everyone. ...Tonight, we are live from the broken heart of Africa, covering two devastating humanitarian crises, Darfur and what is happening here in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. More than three million people have been killed here in the last eight years of war -- tonight, the rapes that are still continuing, tens of thousands of women who have been raped in this country. What can be done to stop it.
John Roberts was holding down the anchor desk in NYC and reporting on the news stateside, but much of the night's AC360 was spent with Anderson reporting from the Congo.
COOPER: Good evening. Thanks for watching. ... We are live tonight from Rutshuru on the eastern edge of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, not far from the borders of Uganda and Rwanda. That is a crucial fact, Congo sharing its borders with nine other nations. It has absorbed waves of refugees from more than half of them, including Sudan. We will have much more tonight from Congo, as well as neighboring Sudan, both countries, the futures literally hanging in the balance. Their future is being written right now.
COOPER: Welcome back. We are live in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The level of everyday violence here in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has been simply unfathomable over the last several years. Guns and machetes, of course, are common. But the most ruthless weapon that has been used here is rape, tens of thousands of women, children have been attacked, mostly by gangs of soldiers and bands of outlaws.
According to Doctors Without Borders, an estimated 40 percent of the rape victims are under the age of 18. Often, there are multiple assailants. It is something that's hard to report on, but is something that is fact. And this story may be certainly hard to watch, but we can't avoid it. It is part of life here. And the world should know what the women here are facing.
and then had a follow up discussion with Romain Gitenet from Doctors Without Borders.
COOPER: The fighting and dying in Darfur region, of course, continues. There are now some 200,000 refugees who fled that fighting, living in refugee camps in Chad.
You hear that number, 200,000, and it doesn't almost have any reality. It's easy to just think of it as a statistics, but those are peoples' mothers and fathers. They're brothers and sisters, and all of them have stories to tell.
360 M.D. Sanjay Gupta recently went to the border with Chad. ~
and the video included an interesting follow up discussion with Sanjay.
There were several reports from the Congo on the October 4, 2006 edition of AC360. Next week we'll look at a few more, but I'll leave you with the following that Anderson posted to the AC360 blog on October 5th as it reflects on his report in the second video posted above ~
Thursday, October 05, 2006
This is not a fairy tale
There are some things you see, some things you hear that simply are unspeakable. In a hospital in the eastern Congo city of Goma, we met a little girl. She never said a word to us, she could barely look us in the eyes. When she did, her eyes told the story.
"She never says anything to men," one of the hospital counselors explained, and then she told us why.
The little girl was raped. Gang-raped. It was allegedly done by soldiers engaged in a complicated regional war that has claimed millions of lives. The war officially ended in 2003, but outbreaks of violence and rape continue. The girl is now five years old. She was raped when she was three.
I wish I could tell you this was an extraordinary event. I wish I could tell you she was the only child attacked. The hospital was full of rape victims, and the doctor had seen other small children victimized.
Because the rapes are so violent, women often develop fistulas -- ruptures in their vaginas or rectums that make it impossible to control bodily functions. A charity called Heal Africa was running this hospital, and the doctor said he was able to fix about 70-80 percent of the fistula cases, but of course some wounds never heal.
Heal Africa has opened up a residence for women with fistulas that can't be surgically fixed, at least not here in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The women can't go home. Often they've been rejected by their husbands because they were raped. The stigma here is strong.
I met a woman named Angela. I can't stop thinking about her. She was raped by three men in front of her children. Afterwards they shot her, and she says they burned her baby girl. The girl is four now and has a massive scar all over her chest.
Angela's fistula was fixed, but her arm remains injured from the gunshot. Pscyhologically she's still devastated. To make matters worse, her husband kicked her out of the house.
"He heard I was raped," she said whispering. "And he just said, 'Go on your own, I don't need you anymore. If we lived together, you now might have HIV so you might infect me.'"
I didn't ask Angela her HIV status. I didn't think it was any of my business. Perhaps I should have asked, but she didn't volunteer it, and I felt like I'd already asked her too much.
The funding for the Heal Africa house comes from a non-governmental organization. They say their funding ends in April. It's not clear what will happen then.
"The only thing I need is some land so I can build a house," Angela said to me before I left. "I might die and I want my kids to have that castle. I'm hoping for a miracle."
There aren't many miracles in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This is not a fairy tale, some stories don't have happy endings. Here the men who rape with impunity are rarely brought to justice. Women like Angela are expected to simply bear the pain.
If you would like to help Heal Africa in the work they are doing, you can log onto their Web site.
Posted By Anderson Cooper: 12:14 PM ET
Until next week when we see reports on Gorillas and other animals.... Wonz.