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Congo crisis call for help in UNHCR "Gimme Shelter" campaign

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Congo crisis call for help in UNHCR "Gimme Shelter" campaign

17 December 2008

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

With fighting raging on in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and seemingly no end in sight for the 250,000 Congolese people forced from their homes because of the violence, actor-director Ben Affleck and Sir Mick Jagger today released a short film to help raise US $23 million for the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) in 2009 to help pay for clean water and emergency humanitarian assistance kits in the region.

The film - "Gimme Shelter" - was directed by Affleck and filmed by John Toll, both Academy Award winners. The footage was shot last month in the strife-torn North Kivu region of the DRC, where thousands have fled their homes since fighting resumed in August. The film is set to the Rolling Stones' song Gimme Shelter, which Jagger and the group donated to the campaign.

"We made this film in order to focus attention on the humanitarian crisis in the DRC at a time when too much of the world is indifferent or looking the other way," said Affleck, who launched the film at a special briefing at the United Nations in New York today (Wednesday, 17 December). "The suffering and loss we've all seen first-hand is staggering - it is beyond belief."

"Gimme Shelter" captures the unseen suffering of Congolese families who fled the fighting with next to nothing and are now forced to find refuge in makeshift huts with little to live on. Some 30,000 others have fled to neighbouring Uganda and are receiving help from UNHCR.

There are currently 1.3 million displaced people in the DRC, many of them earlier victims caught up in an ongoing cycle of violence. The effects of the conflict have claimed as many as 5.4 million lives in the last 10 years, with an estimated 1,000 people still dying every day. In some areas, two out of three women have been raped. Abductions persist in all brutal forms and children are forcefully recruited to fight. Outbreaks of cholera and other diseases have increased as the humanitarian situation deteriorates.

Faced with an overwhelming need, "Gimme Shelter" hopes to raise US $23 million in 2009 to pay for emergency humanitarian assistance kits that contain jerry cans, kitchen sets, thermal blankets, sleeping mats, mosquito nets and plastic sheeting needed for construction of shelters.

"Gimme Shelter" will be distributed worldwide via online, television, mobile phones, cinemas and hotel chains to raise awareness of UNHCR's global work for refugees and to encourage donations for displaced Congolese. It's just a click away.

Jagger described the human suffering in the DRC as appalling and expressed strong support for Affleck's awareness-raising efforts.

"The Rolling Stones are very happy to contribute 'Gimme Shelter' in support of Ben's efforts to raise the profile of the conflict in the Congo," Jagger said. "I hope this video will help highlight the plight of the hundreds of thousands of displaced people and also the thousands of innocent people who are needlessly losing their lives there."

Affleck, who has made four visits to central Africa since 2007, urged more public awareness of this and other conflicts in which millions of people have been forced from their homes.

"I'm urging people not to look the other way, not to turn off their TV when news of the violence in the DRC comes on. We all need to stand up and support the work of organizations like UNHCR who are on the ground offering protection and working hard to ensure the rights and well-being of refugees," he said.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres thanked Jagger, Affleck and other "Gimme Shelter" supporters for their efforts.

"Refugees are among the most vulnerable of the vulnerable and we at UNHCR are grateful for the compassion, concern and commitment shown by those involved in this campaign," said Guterres.

"Their contributions will have a direct impact on the lives of uprooted people not only in the DRC, but around the world."