BUKAVU, Congo (AP) — Jill Biden, the wife of the U.S. vice president, traveled Saturday to conflict-wracked eastern Congo, where she met with survivors of sexual violence as part of her three-nation tour of the continent.
Her trip to Zambia, Congo and Sierra Leone, focused on highlighting issues facing women and girls, marks her third to Africa since Joe Biden became vice president.
During her stop in the Bukavu area, Biden visited the Panzi Hospital, which treats sexual violence survivors. As she was greeted by hospital personnel, she said she wanted "to learn and better understand the challenges facing Congolese women."
Rape has long been used as a weapon of war on all sides of the conflict in eastern Congo, which has been mired in conflict for more than two decades.
She said that U.S. financing of projects had helped provide medical and psychological assistance to 13,000 victims in the country last year, and close to 4,000 women received legal help.
Biden also commended Dr. Denis Mukwege, an internationally renowned gynecologist who founded the hospital in 1999 and whose team has treated tens of thousands of victims. In 2012, Mukwege survived an assassination attempt after armed intruders held his family at gunpoint.
"Thanks to your extraordinary efforts to fight against sexual violence, to fight against impunity and to offer services to survivors," she said. "Not only do you improve the lives of thousands of Congolese women but you help change the face of Africa."
Biden, who traveled to Zambia earlier, is also visiting a center that helps former child soldiers before she leaves Congo. On Sunday, she stops in Sierra Leone before heading back to the United States.
Panzi Hospital: http://www.panzihospital.org