Dr Denis Mukwege founded Panzi General Hospital in Bukavu, Congo, an institution specialising in the treatment of survivors who have been raped by armed rebels. In 2018, Dr Mukwege and human rights activist Nadia Murad were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for “their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict.”
Dr Mukwege was born as the third of nine children in Congo to a Pentecostal minister and his wife. His original reason for studying medicine was to heal the people his father often prayed for. He attended medical school in Burundi before moving to France to study gynaecology and obstetrics at the University of Angers.
He opened the Panzi General Hospital in Bukavu, in Eastern DRC, in 1999 to help deal with the atrocities taking place. The region of the country has been ravaged by war and sexualised violence for more than two decades. The hospital now serves more than 400,000 people located in the Ibanda Health Zone and is supported by the US-based Panzi Foundation. It makes strategic investments to help end violence against women and girls in the DRC as well as throughout the world.
Since opening Panzi, Dr. Mukwege has become more focused on the treatment of victims of sexual violence. He originally completed his studies with a thesis in paediatrics, on the vaccinations of newborns against Hepatitis B. His original intention was to move into the field of paediatrics until his first day on the job when two women patients died in Lamera Hospital’s maternity clinic because they had not received the proper treatment. He is the world’s leading expert on how to repair the internal physical damage caused by gang rape.
In September 2012, he gave an impassioned speech at the UN where he condemned the freedom from consequences of action for mass rape that exists in the DRC. He went on to criticise the DRC’s government as well as others for not doing enough to “stop the unjust war that has used violence against women and rape as a strategy of war.”
In October 2012, his family was held hostage by four armed men at his home until he arrived. His bodyguard was killed in the assassination attempt but his family survived. They fled to Europe for a short while before returning to the DRC because his patients needed him.
In 2015, he earned a PhD from the Université libre de Bruxelles for his thesis on traumatic fistulas.Tags: Africa, Congo, human rights, women's health