Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie called on Tuesday for constant and long-term assistance for Pakistan to help it cope with its worst ever floods that have wreaked havoc on the impoverished country.
The disaster has killed more than 1,750 people, affected more than 18 million and inflicted nearly $43 billion worth of damage to infrastructure and agriculture, the mainstay of the economy, since it began more than a month ago.
Angelina Jolie travelled to the north-west of the country to meet Afghan refugees whose camp close to the town of Nowshera was completely destroyed in three hours of flooding.
She said she was shocked by the level of destruction.
“From what I understand, the situation is on a scale we have not really seen. It’s on a huge scale,” she said during Tuesday’s visit.
“It’s not just the floods – it’s three decades that the Pakistani people have hosted Afghan refugees. Their needs need to be addressed.”
“There are people displaced by the floods, all their homes washed away. Many of them lost their children during the floods.”
Her interest in helping the flood victims caused a stir in Pakistan last month when it emerged she had personally donated $100,000 (£65,000) to the cause – almost twice as much as the country’s own president donated.
The 35-year-old actress, making her fourth trip to Pakistan since becoming a goodwill ambassador for the UN in 2001, visited several camps where she made a point of speaking to women and children.
She wore a striking black and red embroidered cloak that hid her hair. Her arms were covered by a traditional Pakistani long-sleeved kurta in a concession to the region’s conservative values.
Her visit was timed to shine a spotlight on the needs of Pakistan at a time when global attention was waning.
Some 21 million people have now been affected by more than five weeks of flooding.
Aid workers say they still face a desperate battle trying to ensure the supply of food, medicine and drinking water even as the water recedes in other areas.
The UN has so far raised less than two thirds of its $460m target for the first 90 days of the flood response. The flow of cash is now at a standstill, with only $3m raised in the past five days.
Maurizio Giuliano, UN spokesman, said he hoped a movie star would help remind people that millions of lives were still at stake. “If we don’t raise the money then people will die – it’s as simple as that,” he said. [via Daily Telegraph (UK), Daily Mail (UK) and Reuters]