Back in January, Angelina Jolie traveled to Khanke, Iraq on an envoy with the United Nations Refugee Agency, and documented the horrific living conditions families and survivors are living under. Following her visit to an Iraqi refugee camp, she wrote an impassioned op-ed in the New York Times describing the devastation she witnessed and called for action to help the millions of displaced Syrians and Iraqis who no longer have a home. She urged world leaders to scale up relief efforts and do more to broker a ceasefire agreement in Syria.
“For many years I have visited camps, and every time, I sit in a tent and hear stories,” wrote the 39-year-old mother of six. “I try my best to give support. To say something that will show solidarity and give some kind of thoughtful guidance. On this trip I was speechless.”
The UN has called Syria’s four-year civil war the “world’s worst humanitarian catastrophe,” with an estimated 220,000 killed and more than 12 million in need of aid. About 5.6 million of those are children.
Jolie went on to recount individual stories of abuse that she said exceeded the brutality of accounts she had heard on four previous visits to Iraq as the special envoy of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. She described conversations with refugees who’ve been gravely affected by the instability brought on by ISIS.
“What do you say to the 13-year-old girl who describes the warehouses where she and the others lived and would be pulled out, three at a time, to be raped by the men?” Jolie asked. “How can you speak when a woman your own age looks you in the eye and tells you that her whole family was killed in front of her, and that she now lives alone in a tent and has minimal food rations?”
The “Unbroken” director warned that without an end to the war in Syria, the “spread of extremism, the surge in foreign fighters, the threat of new terrorism” will continue.
Jolie demanded additional funding to the United Nation’s humanitarian efforts and urged countries outside the Middle East to offer sanctuary and homes to the “most vulnerable refugees” who have been raped and tortured.
“The international community as a whole has to find a path to a peace settlement. It is not enough to defend our values at home, in our newspapers and in our institutions. We also have to defend them in the refugee camps of the Middle East, and the ruined ghost towns of Syria,” she concluded.
Here are a few ways you can help and make a difference.