Famous Hollywood actress and UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie met flood victims in northwestern Pakistan on Tuesday to bring more international attention to their suffering and provide aid needed to help the country recover from its worst natural disaster
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.
“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 UNHCR’s 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 village near the banks of the Kabul River in Nowshera where some 70 percent of the homes were destroyed or badly damaged by floods.
“We will never be able to afford the things we once had, never again,” said the elderly Rehman Gul as he points towards an old plastic fan buried in mud. “Since the flooding, flies and mosquitoes are everywhere… all over the children, all over us, everything,” Gul told Jolie in the ruins of his former home.
When asked by Ms Jolie to speak of her situation, his wife Zainul said “How can I burden you with all the things we need. I feel embarrassed,” she said as she began to weep quietly.
Jolie walked through the village meeting with families and witnessing first hand their loss and bewilderment at the task they face ahead.
“There was a small stream outside the broken homes. It was full of a mix of faces, flies, old shoes and old clothes that had been recently washed into the water,” said Jolie. 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 Jolie 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,” concluded Jolie.
UNHCR has delivered help to more than 748,000 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.