Hollywood star Angelina Jolie called Sunday for a larger focus on conflict prevention rather than responding to its repercussions, during a visit to Iraq with the UN refugee agency.
“I hope that we can find the strength to find a better way forward together: so that we move into a new era of preventing conflict and reducing instability, rather than simply struggling to deal with its consequences,” Jolie told a news conference at the Domiz refugee camp in Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region. It was Jolie’s third visit to the camp as UNHCR special envoy, after previous visits in 2012 and 2016.
The Domiz camp opened in 2011 and is home to 40,000 Syrian refugees who fled the seven-year civil war across the border. “When UNHCR’s Syria response was only 50 percent funded last year, and this year it is only 17 percent funded, there are terrible human consequences,” Jolie said. “We should be under no illusion about this,” she added. Late last month, the UN made an “urgent and critical” appeal for donations to its main budget for Syrian refugees after contributions pledged in April failed to trickle in. “When there is not even the bare minimum of aid, refugee families cannot receive adequate medical treatment, women and girls are left vulnerable to sexual violence, many children cannot go to school, and we squander the opportunity of being able to invest in refugees so that they can acquire new skills and support their families,” she said. Her visit coincided with the third day of Eid al-Fitr celebrations marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. On Saturday, Jolie visited western Mosul, held by Islamic State jihadists for nearly three years until they were pushed out by Iraqi forces last summer.
During her visit, she walked through Mosul’s destroyed Old City, met with displaced families and spoke about reconstruction. “This is the worst devastation I have seen in all my years with UNHCR,” Jolie said. “It is deeply upsetting that people who have endured unparallelled brutality have so little as they try, somehow, to rebuild the lives they once had.” The visit marked Jolie’s 61st mission — and fifth to Iraq — with the UN refugee agency since 2001.