Gimme Shelter: Ben Affleck and UNHCR launch campaign for Congolese

News Stories, 18 December 2008

© UNHCR/J.Graylock
Ben Affleck and former Congolese refugee Rose Mapendo at the launch of the "Gimme Shelter" campaign in New York.

NEW YORK, United States, December 18 (UNHCR) Hollywood actor and director Ben Affleck joined the UN refugee agency this week to launch the organization's global campaign to aid those uprooted by continuing conflict in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

Central to the campaign is a short film directed by Affleck and shot last month in North Kivu province, where tens of thousands have fled for their lives since fighting resumed earlier this year. The "Gimme Shelter" campaign takes its name from the classic Rolling Stones song, which provides the film's soundtrack and which was donated to UNHCR by the group.

Speaking before a screening of the film at UN headquarters in New York on Wednesday, Affleck pointed to the campaign's twin objectives to raise awareness of the humanitarian emergency in the DRC and to raise funds to assist those caught in the middle of the violence.

"UNHCR is on the ground helping those affected by the violence by providing protection, shelter, water. But these actions are only possible with financial support," he told guests, including media. "What we've tried to do through the film is to answer the question, 'What can I do to help as one individual?' The answer to that is to care."

Also taking part in the event was Rose Mapendo, a former refugee from the DRC who now lives in the United States; Pierre Bertrand, UNHCR's representative in New York; and Melanne Verveer of Vital Voices Global Partnership, which supports emerging women leaders.

The "Gimme Shelter" campaign aims to help the UN refugee agency raise US$23 million for humanitarian assistance to those affected by the crisis.

"What is going on in the DRC should be headline news every day," said UNHCR's Bertrand. "As this film shows, this is not an invisible emergency, but it is a neglected one; one that is not sufficiently on the agenda of decision makers."

Before coming to the US in 2000, Mapendo spent two years in a prison camp in the DRC where her husband was executed and where she gave birth to twin boys on the concrete floor of her cell. At Wednesday's launch, she spoke of her joy at witnessing the outpouring of concern over events in her native land. "Everyone needs to believe that they can do something to help these forgotten people," she said.

The "Gimme Shelter" film is being distributed worldwide via the internet, television, mobile phones, cinemas and hotel chains to raise awareness of UNHCR's global work for refugees and to encourage donations for displaced Congolese. Its slogan, that help is "just a click away," emphasizes the point that individuals can make a difference.

There are currently 1.3 million displaced people in the DRC, many of them earlier victims caught up in the long 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.

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DR Congo Crisis: Urgent Appeal

Intense fighting has forced more than 64,000 Congolese to flee the country in recent months.

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UNHCR/Partners Bring Aid to North Kivu

As a massive food distribution gets underway in six UNHCR-run camps for tens of thousands of internally displaced Congolese in North Kivu, the UN refugee agency continues to hand out desperately needed shelter and household items.

A four-truck UNHCR convoy carrying 33 tonnes of various aid items, including plastic sheeting, blankets, kitchen sets and jerry cans crossed Wednesday from Rwanda into Goma, the capital of the conflict-hit province in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The aid, from regional emergency stockpiles in Tanzania, was scheduled for immediate distribution. The supplies arrived in Goma as the World Food Programme (WFP), with assistance from UNHCR, began distributing food to some 135,000 displaced people in the six camps run by the refugee agency near Goma.

More than 250,000 people have been displaced since the fighting resumed in August in North Kivu. Estimates are that there are now more than 1.3 million displaced people in this province alone.

Posted on 6 November 2008

UNHCR/Partners Bring Aid to North Kivu

UNHCR/Partners Bring Aid to North Kivu

Since 2006, renewed conflict and general insecurity in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo's North Kivu province has forced some 400,000 people to flee their homes – the country's worst displacement crisis since the formal end of the civil war in 2003. In total, there are now some 800,000 people displaced in the province, including those uprooted by previous conflicts.

Hope for the future was raised in January 2008 when the DRC government and rival armed factions signed a peace accord. But the situation remains tense in North Kivu and tens of thousands of people still need help. UNHCR has opened sites for internally displaced people (IDPs) and distributed assistance such as blankets, plastic sheets, soap, jerry cans, firewood and other items to the four camps in the region. Relief items have also been delivered to some of the makeshift sites that have sprung up.

UNHCR staff have been engaged in protection monitoring to identify human rights abuses and other problems faced by IDPs and other populations at risk across North Kivu.

UNHCR's ninemillion campaign aims to provide a healthy and safe learning environment for nine million refugee children by 2010.

Posted on 28 May 2008

UNHCR/Partners Bring Aid to North Kivu

Displaced in North Kivu: A Life on the Run

Fighting rages on in various parts of the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), with seemingly no end in sight for hundreds of thousands of Congolese forced to flee violence and instability over the past two years. The ebb and flow of conflict has left many people constantly on the move, while many families have been separated. At least 1 million people are displaced in North Kivu, the hardest hit province. After years of conflict, more than 1,000 people still die every day - mostly of hunger and treatable diseases. In some areas, two out of three women have been raped. Abductions persist and children are forcefully recruited to fight. Outbreaks of cholera and other diseases have increased as the situation deteriorates and humanitarian agencies struggle to respond to the needs of the displaced.

When the displacement crisis worsened in North Kivu in 2007, the UN refugee agency sent emergency teams to the area and set up operations in several camps for internally displaced people (IDPs). Assistance efforts have also included registering displaced people and distributing non-food aid. UNHCR carries out protection monitoring to identify human rights abuses and other problems faced by IDPs in North and South Kivu.

Displaced in North Kivu: A Life on the Run

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