Sophie’s hugs for pioneering surgeon who treats Congolese rape survivors

The countess is on an official visit to the Democratic Republic of the Congo – the first by a member of the British royal family.

Royal visit to Democratic Republic of Congo
Royal visit to Democratic Republic of Congo

The Countess of Wessex has warmly embraced world-renowned surgeon and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Dr Denis Mukwege during her visit to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

A smiling Sophie put her arms out and hugged Dr Mukwege, who greeted her at Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, South Kivu Province.

Royal visit to Democratic Republic of Congo
Sophie greets Dr Denis Mukwege at Panzi Hospital in Bukavu (Jane Barlow/PA)

Dr Mukwege was honoured for his work helping sexually abused women at the hospital he founded.

He has treated thousands who have been raped amid fighting between armed groups seeking to control some of the central African nation’s vast mineral wealth.

Royal visit to Democratic Republic of Congo
The pair embrace outside the hospital (Jane Barlow/PA

Sophie was shown first-hand the pioneering and critical medical treatment provided to those who have endured brutal, conflict-related sexual violence and trauma.

She toured the hospital, including its newly opened operating room, spent time with some of the survivors being cared for at the Panzi, and spoke to its team of experts.

At one point, Sophie looked moved as she held both her hands crossed to her chest as she sat and spoke to one woman who was lying on a hospital bed.

Royal visit to Democratic Republic of Congo
Sophie meeting medical staff and survivors on a post-op ward at Panzi Hospital (Jane Barlow/PA)

The countess was meeting medical staff and survivors on a post-op ward.

She was also pictured wearing disposable blue medical scrubs as she listened intently while being shown around.

Royal visit to Democratic Republic of Congo
The countess with Dr Mukwege at the hospital (Jane Barlow/PA)

Some 3,500 babies born of sexual violence in conflict are delivered there each year, and Sophie also heard about the vital support given to the mothers.

The Panzi Foundation has supported more than 70,000 survivors of conflict-related sexual violence since 1999.

Royal visit to Democratic Republic of Congo
Sophie meeting medical staff and survivors (Jane Barlow/PA)

The countess is the first member of the royal family to travel to the DRC after visiting at the request of the Foreign Office.

She is being accompanied by Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, the Prime Minister’s special representative on preventing sexual violence in conflict.

Royal visit to Democratic Republic of Congo
The countess with Lord Ahmad and Dr Mukwege (Jane Barlow/PA)

Sophie has publicly committed herself to supporting the UK’s work helping victims of rape, sexual violence and exploitation in war.

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