In June, a landmark conference was held in Washington, D.C., to discuss improving child survival rates around the world. The event, titled Child Survival: Call to Action, was organized by the Eastern Congo Initiative or ECI — a nonprofit founded by actor Ben Affleck in 2009. The 39-year-old has made it his life's focus to help make a difference in a country he considers to be in the midst of a "humanitarian disaster."
In attendance at Call to Action were distinguised professionals and leaders, including U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. While the conference acknowledged the good news that the overall mortality rates for children worldwide have been dropping, there remain some grim statistics to overcome — especially in the Congo.
"With just 1 percent of the global population, Congo is responsible for over 6 percent of global under-5 mortality," wrote Affleck on the Huffington Post. "According to USAID, 148 out of 1000 DRC children will not reach 5 years. This is the fifth highest under-5 mortality rate in the world. Thus, Congo faces daunting challenges and has to negotiate colossal hurdles to save these children and provide them a hopeful future."
Affleck adds that Congolese children and women are particularly vulnerable to the violence that continues to erupt across the country. "Boys and girls are abducted to serve either as fighters or sex slaves," he writes. "Families that survive the fighting often face hunger, malnutrition and diseases, which reduce children's survival prospects and deny them the potential of a promising life."
You can read Affleck's full Op-Ed piece here, but I encourage you to first watch the latest video from the ECI below.