Heat star Ashley Judd has said she is recovering in a South African hospital from "catastrophic" leg injuries she sustained in an accident in the Democratic Republic of Congo. 

The actress broke her leg in a number of places when she tripped in a rainforest. Judd, who is a regular visitor to the Democratic Republic of Congo, was tracking bonobo apes as part of her conservation work.

People magazine reports that Judd recounted her ordeal in an Instagram live interview with The New York Times' Nicholas Kristof from her hospital room.

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She said she is recovering "in an ICU trauma unit in beautiful South Africa, which has taken me in from the Congo: a country I deeply love, which is not, unfortunately, equipped to deal with massive, catastrophic injuries like I have had".

"And the difference between a Congolese person and me is disaster insurance that allowed me 55 hours after my accident to get to an operating table in South Africa," the 52-year-old added.

Judd said she had endured "an incredibly harrowing 55 hours" that involved "five hours of lying on the forest floor", being carried out of the forest in a hammock, a six-hour motorbike journey and two flights before reaching hospital in South Africa.

She said she is aware of her "privilege", as most people in the Democratic Republic of Congo would have been forced to stay in their village, losing their leg - and perhaps their life.

In a post on her Instagram page, Judd said she had decided to speak about the accident to highlight "what it means to be Congolese in extreme poverty with no access to health care, any medication for pain, any type of service, or choices".

"Please join us and learn what it is like for much of the world - and how you can help," she told her followers.

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