Jolie is travelling as the personal envoy of UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres. On Tuesday she visited Mohib Banda village in northwest Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region and areas near Peshawar, including the Azakhel Afghan refugee settlement and the Jalozai camp for internally displaced people (IDP).
“It’s clear this crisis is far from over,” she said. “People have lost everything: their homes, their belongings, their crops and cattle, and their livelihoods. Long after the cameras have gone, people will be struggling to rebuild their lives.”
Jolie’s visit is her fourth to Pakistan since becoming a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador in 2001. She last visited in November 2005 following the devastating earthquake in northern Pakistan.
On Tuesday, she met people who had been directly affected by the floods, including in Mohib Banda, where some 70 per cent of the homes were destroyed or badly damaged by the swirling waters.
“We will never be able to afford the things we once had, never again,” an elderly man, Rehman Gul, told Jolie, as he pointed towards an old plastic fan amid the ruins of his former home. “Since the flooding, flies and mosquitoes are everywhere… all over the children, all over us, everything.”
When asked by Jolie to speak of her situation, Gul’s wife Zainul said: “How can I burden you with all the things we need. I feel embarrassed.” Jolie walked through the village, meeting with families and witnessing at first hand the loss and bewilderment.
“There was a small stream outside the broken homes. It was full of a mix of faeces, flies, old shoes and old clothes that had been recently washed into the water,” Jolie said.
The floods that first hit Pakistan in July have affected millions. “We must not forget flooding is not the only trauma plaguing this country,” she said.
“They are still rebuilding infrastructure from the earthquake of 2005. They continue to have large numbers of IDPs as a result of the conflict in the north, and host 1.7 million Afghan refugees who still need care and refuge as conflict continues in their homeland. And now, of course, the recent flooding and its aftermath already affecting millions and the looming threat of disease,” Jolie continued.
“One problem does not negate the other, one headline should not pull focus from the many complexities of the situation in Pakistan,” said the Goodwill Ambassador, stressing the need for continuing efforts to support those in need.
“Over the last three decades, Pakistan has been very generous in hosting what continues to be the largest refugee population in the world. It is now the Pakistani people themselves who are in need of large-scale assistance,” Jolie concluded.
UNHCR has delivered help to almost 750,000 people, but continued flooding in many areas of southern Pakistan is creating new challenges for relief efforts in what has already become one of the most complex humanitarian crises of recent times.