American actress Angelina Jolie, who last month was appointed a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), today became the first individual to respond to the agency's emergency appeal for Afghanistan, donating $1 million.
According to a statement by the Geneva-based agency, Ms. Jolie told UNHCR that she would contribute the money to help Afghan refugees in neighbouring asylum States such as Pakistan and Iran, which already host more than 3.5 million refugees between them. During the past year, Ms. Jolie has also contributed to UNHCR programmes for refugees in Africa and Asia.
Thanking Ms. Jolie for her support, High Commissioner Ruud Lubbers said, "This significant contribution from a concerned young American reinforces my belief that, despite the trauma of recent events in her country, a strong sense of humanitarian responsibility toward innocent civilians suffering in far-off places continues to animate the spirit of caring individuals everywhere."
"The generosity of our Goodwill Ambassador, Angelina Jolie, has encouraged all of us in the midst of an immense and complex emergency operation. We hope that others will follow her example and help us continue to protect the lives of the thousands of families fleeing their homes in Afghanistan," he said.
The actress visited Pakistan in August to meet refugees and get a first-hand look at UNHCR's work and programmes on behalf of the 2 million Afghans already seeking refuge there. Having seen the dire plight of these refugees, she said she felt a particular concern for their situation in the looming humanitarian emergency now confronting the region. Ms. Jolie's diary about her August visit to Pakistan will soon be published on the USA for UNHCR website.
Facing a humanitarian crisis of perhaps unprecedented magnitude, UNHCR's emergency appeal - which was revised upwards to total $268 million - covers the needs for six months of a possible influx of up to 1 million refugees into Pakistan; 400,000 into Iran; 50,000 into Tajikistan; and 50,000 into Turkmenistan.
The agency is also doing additional contingency planning to supply aid to 500,000 people inside Afghanistan, involving a massive relief effort that includes the construction and maintenance of refugee camps and the delivery of more than 80,000 tents, hundreds of thousands of health and hygiene kits and a large supply of other relief items.