Rape survivors, who contracted HIV/Aids from the ordeal carried out during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, are asking the government and other institutions for help in the form of food aid.
They say their antiretroviral drugs are taking a toll on them because many of them are unable to afford nutritious foods.
Up to 500,000 women and girls were raped during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, and 67 per cent of them were infected with HIV/Aids.
Rape by HIV positive men was systematically used as a weapon to infect Tutsi women with the virus, and the UN declared rape a weapon of war.
After the genocide, Niyonsenga Merceline went for a blood test and found out that she was HIV positive. What’s worse is she also found out that her infant daughter was also infected with the virus.
She was raped by a neighbour raped during the genocide and he left her in¬fected and pregnant. Armed only with a stoic desire to live, Niyonsenga and her daughter have been taking a cocktail of ARV’s since 2003, but the medication is becoming untenable for them.
“It is hard for me and my daughter and other HIV-infected survivors of the genocide. We take ARVs two times a day, but getting food is a problem. Sometimes we go to bed hungry, yet we have to take the medicine the following day,” she said.
She said it’s hard for her to do heavy work to fend for herself and her family due to sickness. She never got married and so she takes care of her daughter and four other kids who are not hers.
“Besides giving us ARV’s, AVEGA used to give us food items like rice, beans, cooking oil and sosoma porridge. But this stopped many years ago as they told us that the project had been stopped,” she said.
“It’s worse for my daughter because she finds it hard to swallow the ARV’s with water. She throws up every time she does and she needs fruits to help swallow the medicine. Most times I can’t afford to buy the fruits,” she added.
They are however thankful to AVEGA for the free ARVs over all those years because there was a time when this crucial medication was not accessible to rape survivors.
Mugurwanyana Drocella, the social affairs assistant at AVEGA in charge of widows’ welfare, said many survivors are living in deplorable conditions despite the support AVEGA has tried to give them.
“More still needs to be done especially to help some of them start income generating activities,” Ms Drocella.
She added that many don’t have a place to live in and the best and fastest way to also support the children born out of genocidal rape is to empower their mothers economically.
A joint survey by the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Local Government, the umbrella organisation for genocide survivors Ibuka and the Fund for support to Genocide Survivors, identified over 18,600 genocide survivors who are living with physical and psychological traumas.