News / Asia

Angelina Jolie Tours Flood Damage in NW Pakistan

U.S. actress Angelina Jolie is urging the world to help Pakistan in the long term cope with the worst flooding in its history.  Jolie is in Pakistan as a goodwill ambassador for the U.N. refugee agency.

Angelina Jolie is no stranger to Pakistan, even beyond her movies in the local theaters and DVD shops.  The award-winning American actress has visited the country four times since becoming a goodwill ambassador for the U.N. refugee agency in early 2001.

Dressed with a black shawl draped over her hair, Jolie told reporters in northwestern Pakistan the country's flooding disaster is an "extraordinarily complex" situation that the world cannot ignore.

"These are very, very long, extended situations that need our constant support for a very, very long time," said Jolie.

Her plea for strong international support comes as U.N. officials say they have received less than two-thirds of the U.N. appeal for $460 million in emergency flood assistance.

The United Nations is expected to adjust its appeal next week to reflect the worsening situation in the country.

Jolie described the devastation she saw in part of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province where much of the floodwater has receded.  "They have lost their homes.  And the floodwater was as high as the ceiling when you see the mark, and I was surprised by that.  All of their homes were washed away, and it is not just a tent that is washed away in somebody's mind, it is a home, and it is collapsed, and it is mud, and it is their entire life.  Many of them lost their children during the floods."

Jolie last visited Pakistan in 2005 following the massive earthquake that devastated the northern part of the country.  Prior to that, she had toured the country twice to highlight the decades-long plight of Afghan refugees living in Pakistan.

After visiting the flood affected areas, she said the Afghan refugee situation still is dire.  "There are still 1.7 million Afghan people who have needs particular to refugee needs.  Their needs need to be addressed," said Jolie.

The disaster has affected most of the Afghan refugees, putting more pressure on the Pakistani government and humanitarian agencies.

Speaking in Islamabad, the Assistant-Secretary-General and Regional Director for the U.N. Development Program, Ajay Chhibber, highlighted the issue.

"These are people who have begun to build back their lives, and now have lost a lot again," said Chhibber.  "So I think Pakistan is also helping some of these refugees who have been here for quite a long period of time already."

The Soviet occupation of Afghanistan some three decades ago forced millions of Afghans to take refuge in neighboring Pakistan.  But most of them returned to their homeland after the fall of the Taliban-led government in 2001.

The remaining refugees mostly live in temporary settlements in northwestern Pakistan, which was devastated by the flooding.  The floods have killed more than 1,700 people and affected about 20 million others across the country.

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