Global perspective Human stories

UN Ambassador Angelina Jolie hears of suffering, courage from Iraqi refugees

UN Ambassador Angelina Jolie hears of suffering, courage from Iraqi refugees

A. Jolie sits in as UNHCR staff interview refugees
Angelina Jolie, actress and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Goodwill Ambassador, today wrapped up her first visit to Iraq and Syria, where she spoke with Iraqi refugees who have fled the violence in their home country.

After witnessing the suffering and resilience of Iraqi refugees first-hand, she voiced her continued support for UNHCR and “their tireless work for the people of Iraq.”

On Monday, she arrived in Damascus, the Syrian capital, where she visited the UNHCR centre where some 2,500 Iraqi refugees are registered every week. Proving their refugees status gives them access to UNHCR-subsidized medical and food assistance.

At the centre, Ms. Jolie played with Iraqi youngsters in a children’s play room, and met a young refugee girl named Zahara, who shares the same name as the Academy Award winner’s own adopted daughter from Ethiopia.

She sat in on a registration clerk’s interview with a man and his family who fled Baghdad after one member narrowly escaped a kidnapping attempt. They depend on the meagre income earned by their 17-year-old son who irons clothes in a laundry.

Afterwards, Ms. Jolie visited the family in their small rented room shared by 13 people between the ages of eight months and 67 years. One of the women remarked to the Ambassador that her extended family lived under the roof of a spacious house in Baghdad, but now cannot afford to purchase diapers for her children.

“I can’t imagine how I could manage to take care of my children in these circumstances,” Ms. Jolie, the mother of four, told the refugee woman.

UNHCR estimates that over 4.2 million Iraqis have been uprooted, with two million fleeing to neighbouring countries and 2.2 million displaced within their home country.

Yesterday, Ms. Jolie visited Al Waleed camp, which houses 1,300 refugees, in Iraq, where there is no running water or electricity. She met with sick children and refugees, and also toured a site where UNHCR plans to build a school for the camp’s children.