Jolie appeals for aid to help Sri Lanka's recovery

News Stories, 17 April 2003

© UNHCR/L.Taylor
UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie with a returnee family in Ponnagar, northern Sri Lanka. The family is living in a temporary shelter as their home was destroyed in the war.

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka, April 17 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency's Goodwill Ambassador, Angelina Jolie, has concluded a week-long mission to Sri Lanka by calling on the international community to contribute to the war-torn country's recovery.

Over the last week, Jolie got a first-hand look at the post-war conditions in northern Sri Lanka, visiting recent returnees, internally displaced persons (IDPs) and other victims of the 20-year civil war.

At a press conference in Colombo on Wednesday, UNHCR's Representative in Sri Lanka, Neill Wright, said, "The Goodwill Ambassador has seen why it is important to invest in immediate relief and rehabilitation over the next 18-24 months. It is a crucial period for Sri Lanka."

Jolie added, "While addressing the immediate material needs is vital, it must be accompanied by the creation of a greater respect for human rights and protection of all vulnerable people in Sri Lanka. In support of this, I am offering my assistance, financial or otherwise, to strengthen the Human Rights Commission (HRC) of Sri Lanka."

On Monday, Jolie travelled to Kilinochchi district in northern Sri Lanka, where she met with returnee families. She also visited an orphanage for girls, and a school for blind and deaf children in Mullaitivu district.

The Goodwill Ambassador spent the next day in Jaffna town with recent returnees in the Muslim Quarter. She also visited the Jaffna Social Action Centre, supported by UNHCR, which offers pre-school and playroom facilities, as well as skills training for single mothers.

© UNHCR/L.Taylor
Jolie visiting a young patient at Valvedditturai hospital.

Travelling to the northern coast of Jaffna district, she met returnees and displaced people near Point Pedro. She toured Valvedditturai hospital, and committed to donating funds for the rehabilitation of the paediatric ward. The hospital has 88 beds but only one physician, 62-year-old Dr Mylerumperilman, who also runs an outpatient clinic where he treats an average of 85 patients per day.

More than 1.5 million Sri Lankans have been uprooted by a civil war that lasted almost two decades. But since last February's signing of a cease-fire agreement between the government and rebels from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), some 271,000 people have returned to their home areas.

UNHCR estimates that at least another 100,000 people could return this year. The agency has appealed for $8 million in supplementary funds this year to carry out essential protection activities, buy relief items for up to 60,000 families and finance projects to fill gaps in other sectors, including minor infrastructure repairs, rehabilitating water and health services, as well as income-generating activities.

Jolie has been the UN refugee agency's Goodwill Ambassador for over two years and has visited several other operations in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Balkans.