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Belgium urges DRC to scrap tax on hospital for rape victims

The Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, Democratic Republic of Congo, pictured on July 5, 2014, during a visit by a US delegationBelgium on Friday urged the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to scrap a heavy tax on a hospital caring for mass rape victims, saying it threatened the institution’s survival. Panzi hospital in the eastern city of Bukavu, which was founded by famed Congolese doctor Denis Mukwege, announced this week that authorities had seized its accounts and that it could no longer withdraw money, purportedly for tax evasion. Belgian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander De Croo called “on the Congolese government to drop the monthly tax of more than 40,000 euros ($48,000) that Panzi hospital has to pay,” according to a statement from the government in Brussels, the former colonial power in what was once called the Belgian Congo. De Croo, who also heads the ministry for development cooperation, which has provided equipment to the institution, said he is “worried about Panzi hospital’s survival” after its accounts were seized and management could no longer pay the wages of 500 medical staff.

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