The Democratic Republic of Congo is grappling with rampant rape, which has become an every day practice and is used as a weapon of war, the UN has said.
It said almost 5,400 cases of rape against women were reported in the South Kivu province during the first six months of the year.
Elisabeth Byrs, a spokeswoman for the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said South Kivu, near Rwanda, was an increasingly dangerous place for civilians, especially for women.
"Night-time attacks against civilians by unidentified armed elements, and rape against women, remain widespread," Byrs said.
About 90 per cent of the rapes are allegedly committed by armed groups or regular forces.
Nabwemba Natabaro, a woman in South Kivu, told Al Jazeera that she had been held in the bush for two months and repeatedly gang raped, after being abducted from her village.
"My family thought I had been killed and lost all hope of ever seeing me. Then I managed to escape. I was very sick," she said.
Her family brought her to a hospital where she was diagnosed with HIV.
'Tortured by attackers'
Rossette Kavira, a gynaecologist at a hospital in the town of Goma, said: "There isn’t a single day that we don't get raped women coming to the hospital. This explains how widespread the problem is.
"Almost all victims require surgery due to bleeding or wounds inflicted through torture by their attackers."
Due to the huge numbers of rape victims, some women have to wait for months for reconstructive surgery.
Dede Amanor-Wilks, Action Aid's director for West and Central Africa, said many rape cases go unreported.
"Currently the DRC [Democratic Republic of Congo] is thought to have the highest incident of rape in the world, but statistics that come to surface are only a fraction probably of the rapes that actually occur," she told Al Jazeera.
"Rape has been used by all armed groups as a weapon that is more readily available than bullets and bombs"
Al Jazeera correspondent
"Different statistics are coming up in different parts of the eastern DRC all the time. One commonly used statistic is that there are about 400 rapes a day."
Al Jazeera's Mohammed Adow, reporting from Goma, said there were growing fears that the use of rape was turning into a norm in the DR Congo conflict.
"Rape has been used by all armed groups as a weapon that is more readily available than bullets and bombs.
"In many cases the social stigma associated with rape leaves the survivors shunned by husbands, parents and their communities," he said.
The fighting in the eastern DRC between UN-backed Congolese government forces and Rwandan Hutu rebels have worsened in recent months.
The country hosts one of the biggest UN aid operations. Hundreds of thousands of people in the east of the country have been driven from their homes due to fighting, many of whom need protection from violent attacks.
Source: Al Jazeera and agencies