KINSHASA — The European Union will provide 2.5 million euros ($3.5 million) to help care for rape victims in the Democratic Republic of Congo under an agreement signed Monday.

The cash will go towards "appropriate medical care" for victims of sexual attacks in the east of the country, the EU said in a statement -- an area where almost 250 women say they were raped by deserting soldiers last month.

Medical centres and hospitals in the Nord-Kivu et Sud-Kivu provinces will receive funding as part of the project.

The European Commission's Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection (ECHO) unit already leads a support programme for rape victims, and last year the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) agreed a $42 million package to help those affected.

Armed groups, and in some cases soldiers, are regularly accused of carrying out attacks.

Colonel Kifaru, a former member of a Mai Mai tribal militia, is suspected along with 200 soldiers of mass rape in the villages of Nyakiele, Kanguli and Abala after deserting from a military base on June 9.

In August last year at least 387 civilians, including 300 women, were raped by Rwandan Hutu rebels and Mai Mai militia in 13 villages of Nord-Kivu, according to UN figures.