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Cindy McCain Makes Humanitarian Visit to Eastern DRC

The crisis in the eastern DRC is the reason behind a visit to the country by Cindy McCain, wife of US Senator John McCain, the former presidential candidate. From Goma, Mrs. McCain spoke to VOA about why the Congolese humanitarian crisis is important to her.

"My first visit here was in 1994 during the (Rwandan) genocide. I'm been doing relief work…since the early 80's. And through the course of coming back to Africa and doing the work that I do through other organizations…it became very necessary. And I've been urged from many different avenues to come to Congo and take a look to see exactly what's going on," she says.

Her trip is sponsored by the UN World Food Program and other organizations.

"To compare it from 1994 till now is very educational and it's also very sad," she says.

Asked what differences she sees upon her return to the DRC, McCain says, "Not much, to be honest with you. It's still a country that has no infrastructure. It can't feed its population. It's unable to produce a living and give…young people particularly, an opportunity. And so, I don't see any differences from what I saw in 1994, and I'm sorry to say that, other than the production of cell phone towers."

She adds, though, "This is a wonderful country and could be a prosperous country, given a government that was strong and working for its people."

Cindy McCain met Friday with a number of women who've been raped or otherwise sexually assault by members of armed groups.

"I just left a group of women that I sat down with in one of the IDP (internally displaced persons) camps here. And…just sit and listen to not only what their problems were, but just where they needed to go and where they wanted to go, quite frankly. And many of these women don't understand that they have rights. More importantly, the inability of their own government to protect them so they can go and collect firewood and protect their own children is terrible. It's almost a societal thing…it's devastating. I'm almost surprised to see a group of women still very determined to raise their children and keep their families together even under such gruesome circumstances," she says.

She says she plans to meet with the media upon her return to the United States at the end of the month to describe the conditions she found in the DRC.

"It's raising awareness and making sure that we don't let people forget about the DRC and about what's going on here because this is an ongoing conflict," she says.