The announcement of the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize awardees has been awaited with baited breath — and many are in awe of the two honorees, whose work is astounding but not known widely enough. Dr. Denis Mukwege, a gynecologist in the Democratic Republic of Congo, has been awarded the prize along with the 25-year-old activist Nadia Murad — “for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict”, according to the committee. Dr. Mukwege has performed thousands of gynecological operations and earned the nickname “Dr. Miracle”, for his ability to save and repair the reproductive organs of women who have been brutally raped and assaulted.
“The 63-year-old Congolese gynecologist set up the Panzi hospital in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo city of Bukavu nearly 20 years ago – shortly after he had his first experience of treating a woman who had been raped and mutilated by armed men,” the BBC reports. “Dr. Mukwege recounted the horrific injury the patient had suffered in a BBC interview, saying the woman had not only been raped but bullets had been fired into her genitals and thighs. His hospital now treats more than 3,500 women a year. Sometimes Dr. Mukwege performs as many as 10 operations a day.”
Dr. Mukwege was reportedly in surgery when the award was announced and learned of his honor through the cries and tears of the colleagues and patients at his office.
Outbursts of joy in @PanziHospital.
It’s not every day one receives the @NobelPrize.
But no time to stop. @DenisMukwege's in the operating theatre.
A patient is waiting.
Our battle continues. @PanziFoundation @MdMBelgique #Panzi #DRCongo #Mukwege #NobelPeacePrize pic.twitter.com/oUjkGFVYSh
— Seron Alexandre (@AlexandreSeron) October 5, 2018
It’s not just Dr. Mukwege’s admirable skill or his laudable selflessness that are being recognized — it’s also his unstoppable determination. Setting up camp in a war-torn country requires an indefatigable will — something that Dr. Mukwege has demonstrated time and time again. After criticizing presidents, including President Joseph Kabila, for not doing more to stop rape and violence against women being used as a strategy of war, he was targetted by gunmen and his daughters were briefly taken hostage. He and his family were forced to flee to Sweden and Belgium before returning home — but still, he retuned to his work.
“I… started a hospital made from tents. I built a maternity ward with an operating theatre. In 1998, everything was destroyed again. So, I started all over again in 1999,” he told the BBC in a 2013 interview. “The conflict in DR Congo is not between groups of religious fanatics. Nor is it a conflict between states. This is a conflict caused by economic interests – and it is being waged by destroying Congolese women.” Even after he found out he had been awarded such a huge honor, it was his patients who were at the forefront of his mind. “I can see in the face of many women how they are happy to be recognised and this is really so touching,” he said.
You can find out more about Dr. Mukwege’s Panzi Foundation and how to donate on their website.