Julien Clerc completes first mission as UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador

News Stories, 5 March 2004

© UNHCR/H.Caux
UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Julien Clerc with Sudanese refugee children at Touloum transit centre in eastern Chad.

ABECHE, Chad, March 5 (UNHCR) French crooner Julien Clerc has returned from a three-day visit to eastern Chad, completing his first mission as a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador in an intense first step in his long-term commitment to humanitarian work.

During his time there, the Goodwill Ambassador met with some of the 110,000 Sudanese refugees who had arrived in the remote desert of eastern Chad after fleeing fighting in western Sudan's Darfur region.

"Despite very harsh living conditions and the trauma of what they went through, they had a lot of dignity," Clerc said of the refugees he met Tuesday at Mahamata, just a few hundred metres from the insecure Chad-Sudan border. Because of regular militia incursions to steal their cattle, these refugees are currently being moved to camps further inland, where they can enjoy better security and assistance.

On Wednesday, Clerc travelled to Touloum, near the town of Iriba, where UNHCR has set up a camp to receive refugees gathered around the border town of Tine. More than 4,800 people have been transferred to Touloum so far. UNHCR staff guided the Goodwill Ambassador through the site, and explained the process that newly-transferred refugees must go through disembarking from the trucks, undergoing registration, and receiving food and plastic sheeting to build their own shelters. Clerc also saw food and water distribution at Touloum and was shown a newly-dug water well on the site.

He listened closely as the refugees told him about the attacks on their villages in Sudan and their flight to safety in Chad. He then went on to the transit centre in Kounoungo further to the south, where 291 refugees had just arrived earlier that day. There are presently 1,902 persons in Kounoungo.

Throughout his mission, Clerc was accompanied by a television crew from the show, "Envoyé Spécial", and by a team from the French Association for UNHCR. His visit coincided with a mission to the region by High Commissioner Ruud Lubbers. They met up on several occasions during their visit and shared their impressions on the refugee situation and UNHCR's efforts to help them.

"I did not really know how the UN and UN agencies such as UNHCR worked. I was impressed with the professionalism of the staff in the field," said Clerc after his time in the border region.

"I knew that there were people suffering in the world through the multitude of images like this on television. But I used to watch the images somewhat distractedly. I was always dubious of getting involved, in whichever topic, I am always careful to not be used or manipulated."

Clerc, a popular singer-songwriter in France and francophone countries, said he had been thinking about getting involved with humanitarian work for some time now, and had worked on specific projects with UNHCR for two years before being named as the agency's Goodwill Ambassador last October.

"With UNHCR, I am now undertaking a long-term humanitarian commitment for the first time," said Clerc. "I made the decision after meeting with people who are deeply involved, both physically and intellectually, in the humanitarian world. I wanted in my own way to contribute, to add a stone to the structure. I truly wanted to do some good. I have had the good fortune to live thanks to music, to have been born in a rich country. Getting involved with UNHCR is a way for me to give back some of what life has offered me."

• DONATE NOW •

 

• GET INVOLVED • • STAY INFORMED •

UNHCR country pages

Barbara Hendricks and UNHCR

Hendricks' activities for refugees since 1986.

Barbara Hendricks Biography

Read about Hendricks' life and career.

Muazzez Ersoy Biography

A Turkish singing delight.

George Dalaras Biography

A star among the pantheon of stars.

George Dalaras and UNHCR

Read about Dalaras's long link with UNHCR.

Muazzez Ersoy and UNHCR

Learn about Muazzez Ersoy's links with UNHCR.

Julien Clerc Biography

Get in tune with Julien Clerc.

Julien Clerc and UNHCR

Read about Julien Clerc's support for UNHCR.

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie meets Iraqi refugees in Syria

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie returned to the Syrian capital Damascus on 2 October, 2009 to meet Iraqi refugees two years after her last visit. The award-winning American actress, accompanied by her partner Brad Pitt, took the opportunity to urge the international community not to forget the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees who remain in exile despite a relative improvement in the security situation in their homeland. Jolie said most Iraqi refugees cannot return to Iraq in view of the severe trauma they experienced there, the uncertainty linked to the coming Iraqi elections, the security issues and the lack of basic services. They will need continued support from the international community, she said. The Goodwill Ambassador visited the homes of two vulnerable Iraqi families in the Jaramana district of southern Damascus. She was particularly moved during a meeting with a woman from a religious minority who told Jolie how she was physically abused and her son tortured after being abducted earlier this year in Iraq and held for days. They decided to flee to Syria, which has been a generous host to refugees.

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie meets Iraqi refugees in Syria

Crisis in the Central African Republic

Little has been reported about the humanitarian crisis in the northern part of the Central African Republic (CAR), where at least 295,000 people have been forced out of their homes since mid-2005. An estimated 197,000 are internally displaced, while 98,000 have fled to Chad, Cameroon or Sudan. They are the victims of fighting between rebel groups and government forces.

Many of the internally displaced live in the bush close to their villages. They build shelters from hay, grow vegetables and even start bush schools for their children. But access to clean water and health care remains a huge problem. Many children suffer from diarrhoea and malaria but their parents are too scared to take them to hospitals or clinics for treatment.

Cattle herders in northern CAR are menaced by the zaraguina, bandits who kidnap children for ransom. The villagers must sell off their livestock to pay.

Posted on 21 February 2008

Crisis in the Central African Republic

Battling the Elements in Chad

More than 180,000 Sudanese refugees have fled violence in Sudan's Darfur region, crossing the border to the remote desert of eastern Chad.

It is one of the most inhospitable environments UNHCR has ever had to work in. Vast distances, extremely poor road conditions, scorching daytime temperatures, sandstorms, the scarcity of vegetation and firewood, and severe shortages of drinkable water have been major challenges since the beginning of the operation. Now, heavy seasonal rains are falling, cutting off the few usable roads, flooding areas where refugees had set up makeshift shelters, and delaying the delivery of relief supplies.

Despite the enormous environmental challenges, UNHCR has so far managed to establish nine camps and relocate the vast majority of the refugees who are willing to move from the volatile border.

Battling the Elements in Chad

Canada: Light Years Ahead
Play video

Canada: Light Years Ahead

With help from the Government of Canada, lives of refugees in Chad and Ethiopia have been transformed through the Light Years Ahead project.
Iraq: Khaled Hosseini VisitPlay video

Iraq: Khaled Hosseini Visit

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Khaled Hosseini, a former refugee from Afghanistan, met Syrian refugees during a trip to northern Iraq. The best-selling novelist talked to many of the refugees, including an aspiring young writer.
Chad: Health for allPlay video

Chad: Health for all

Refugees in southern Chad receive health care under a European Union-funded programme. A new clinic tackles malaria, malnutrition, respiratory infections and more.