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UN Panel Urges More Help for DRC Sexual Violence Victims

A United Nations panel says sexual violence victims in the Democratic Republic of Congo need greater assistance than they are getting, particularly in remote areas.

The high-level panel, convened by the U.N. human rights agency, said the victims' greatest needs are for health care and education, both for themselves and their children.

It said that in Congo's volatile North and South Kivu provinces, the primary concern is for peace and security.

The panel released its findings Wednesday after more than a week of meetings with 61 victims and a range of local officials in several provinces throughout the DRC.

The panel said public support for the victims of sexual violence, particularly at the highest levels of government, would help change a culture that currently puts shame on the victims rather than the perpetrators.

The U.N. group said the victims also discussed difficulties in seeking justice through Congo's legal system.

The panel's leader, U.N. deputy human rights commissioner Kyung-wha Kang, shared the findings with government and U.N. officials in Kinshasa on Tuesday.

The U.N. is giving greater attention to Congo's rape epidemic after at least 300 women, men and children were raped during a recent rebel attack on a village in North Kivu province.

The U.N. peacekeeping force in Congo was criticized for failing to stop the attack.

The U.N. says about 15,000 rapes are reported in Congo each year.