More than 1,100 women are raped every day in Congo, a study published in the American Journal of Public Health on Tuesday concluded.

The study found that more than 400,000 women aged between 15 and 49 were raped during a 12-month period in 2006-2007, AFP reported.

© Pete Muller / AP, file A mass rape victim comforts her son in the town of Fizi, Congo, on Feb. 20. She was among nearly fifty women who were raped by Congolese soldiers on the night of Jan. 1. Her son suffered a head wound when soldiers threw him to the ground prior to the rape. A court later sentenced an army colonel to 20 years in prison, convicting him of crimes against humanity.
The findings put the number of rapes at 26 times higher than a previous report from the United Nations, which said the number was 15,000 for the same period.

"Our results confirm that previous estimates of rape and sexual violence are severe underestimates of the true prevalence of sexual violence occurring," Amber Peterman, lead author of the study, told AFP.

The study reportedly did not gather data on sexual violence among boys and men, or in girls younger than 15 and older than 49.

"Even these new, much higher figures still represent a conservative estimate of the true prevalence of sexual violence because of chronic underreporting due to stigma, shame, perceived impunity, and exclusion of younger and older age groups as well as men," Peterman said.

The study also gave mention to a Human Rights Watch report that sexual violence in Congo doubled from 2008 to 2009.

The giant Central African nation was mired in civil war from 1996-2002, and the east remains awash in weapons and rebel groups who terrorize civilians.