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Ben Affleck has launched a new initiative to help people affected by war in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Affleck has just returned from a trip to the DRC, and has announced the launch of the Eastern Congo Initiative, which aims to support community groups and organization recover from war, as well as help rape victims.

“The more I traveled, the more I was struck about it, the more I fell in love with the people, the more I was horrified by what was happening,” the actor told CNN. “And the more I did, I started to develop this idea of partnering with the Congolese people and wanting to empower community-based organizations there that were doing extraordinary work.”

Over 5 million people have died over the last 12 years as a result of conflict – 16 times as many as in Darfur – and 1,200 still die every day from preventable disease and murder.

“There are folks who are working to protect those who are suffering from gender-based violence, who help child soldiers to advance the educational needs of the citizens there,” said Affleck. “There are people who live in the communities, who are from there, who understand the relationships there, who are Africans finding solutions to African problems. And when I was there, what I saw was that those were, in my view, the most effective folks at meeting those goals.”

The Eastern Congo Initiative believes public and private partnerships, combined with advocacy that drives increased attention and public policy change, will create new opportunities for the people of eastern Congo.

“The situation in eastern Congo has been neglected for far too long – it is one of the worst humanitarian tragedies in the world,” said Affleck. “I brought together this unique collection of partners in order to bring their experience in humanitarian relief and sustainable development to bear as we focus like never before on local solutions to challenges in this region. Right now, the attention paid to this crisis doesn’t match the needs of those affected by it. We will raise that attention level, and work with the extraordinary Congolese people who are making a positive difference in their own communities.”

The Congo is an ongoing concern for Affleck, who has visited the country many times. In 2008, he made a short film about the problems facing the people in the DRC called Gimme Shelter, and testified at a congressional meeting in 2009. He is well known for using his public appearances to raise awareness of the DRC.

To find out more about the ECI, visit the official website.

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