By Tim Saunders on
Actress Angelina Jolie visited Iraq and Syria for two days at the end of August, in an effort to raise international support for the millions of people displaced by war.
She made the trip, veiled in secrecy and with little media coverage, as part of her duties as a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), an agency set up in 1950 to lead and coordinate international action for the protection of refugees, and to solve refugee problems worldwide.
“I have come to Syria and Iraq to help draw attention to this humanitarian crisis,” said the actress, who has visited over 20 countries since becoming an ambassador six years ago. “And to urge governments to increase their support for UNHCR and its partners.”
During her trip, Jolie visited the makeshift camp of al-Waleed, where 1200 refugees survive in basic conditions, prevented from entering Syria. Although Syria maintains open borders for Iraqi refugees, Palestinian residents of Iraq are not allowed to cross, and are stranded at the camp on the border. Jolie spent several hours talking with the refugees, as well as inspecting the medical and hygiene facilities.
“She did not make any promises,” said one of the refugees living at al-Waleed. “But she said ‘We will make an effort to resolve your situation.’”
The UNHCR is seeking to raise $223 million in aid to assist the 4.2 million Iraqis forced to leave their homes since the 2003 US-led invasion. Around 2 million of these people have fled into neighboring countries, placing heavy strains on their resources. The UNHCR have also launched an appeal with UNICEF to raise $130 million to help provide education to displaced Iraqi children.
“It is absolutely essential that the on-going debate about Iraq’s future includes plans for addressing the enormous humanitarian consequences these people face,” said Jolie, who plans to return to the troubled countries when her filming schedule allows.
Copyright © 2007 Look to the Stars