More than 400,000 women are raped in the Democratic Republic of Congo every year, according to a study by U.S. researchers published yesterday — but the United Nations has expressed doubt over the findings.

Congo, which has a population of around 60 million, has endured decades of conflict, characterized by the use of brutal sexual violence against civilians, with mass rapes still regular in the largely lawless eastern provinces.

The study, which used nationwide data collected by the government between 2006 and 2007, found that on average 1,100 women were raped every day in the vast central African country.

“Nowhere is a woman in the Congo safe from sexual violence,” said Tia Palermo, one of the authors of the study.

She said the figures were the most accurate yet published but were still likely to be a conservative estimate.

Dissenting opinion

The validity of the research has been questioned by Beatrix Attinger Colijn, the head of the U.N. team that’s tackling sexual violence in the country.

Colijn says the sample group was too small and that the research did not reflect local and cultural factors.

“We don’t need figures like this to know sexual violence is a problem; there are many other types of violence and human rights issues that need to be tackled,” she said.