When the first survivors arrived at Panzi Hospital in 1999, Dr. Mukwege and the Panzi staff realized immediately that physical healing would not be enough. Many survivors do not immediately have the emotional strength to withstand the rigorous, complex physical recovery process, often requiring multiple surgeries over an extended period. The front-line of treatment at Panzi, therefore, is psychological.
A woman first arriving at Panzi meets immediately with a social assistant, who provides an initial assessment and begins working with the woman and our psychological unit to address her most urgent needs. It is only after each woman is assessed to be emotionally resilient enough to undergo treatment that she is cleared for surgery.
Survivors have continued access to psychosocial support, including group therapy and other groundbreaking therapeutic innovations through the programs at our after-care center, Maison Dorcas. Here, survivors and vulnerable community members join to chart forward their healing paths – not in isolation, but together. Working side-by-side with women from the community helps to break down stigma and social barriers, bolstering each woman’s support network and strengthening her further.