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Angelina Jolie donates aid for Western Saharan refugees

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Angelina Jolie donates aid for Western Saharan refugees

13 September 2002

Note: this press release issued jointly by UNHCR and the World Food Programme

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie today donated $100,000 for urgently needed food aid for Western Saharan refugees.

Some 155,000 Western Saharan refugees, almost entirely dependent on humanitarian aid to survive, are living on drastically reduced rations in remote desert regions some 2000 kilometres south of Algeria's Mediterranean coast.

Ms. Jolie was the first major private donor to respond to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the World Food Programme (WFP) joint appeal in late August for contributions to help feed and assist this largely forgotten and increasingly desperate refugee population.

Speaking from London, Ms. Jolie said: "I was distressed when this desperate situation was brought to my attention. I hope to encourage other people to make themselves aware of this crisis facing the Western Saharan refugees and do what they can to help".

Lack of food aid and insufficient funding threaten severe consequences on the health and well-being of these refugees, particularly the most vulnerable groups including children under five, pregnant women and lactating mothers.

"The Western Saharan refugees are really experiencing enormous difficulties, said UNHCR's Radhouane Nouicer, who oversees operations in North Africa and the Middle east. "Thirty-five percent of the children suffer chronic malnutrition and 13 percent of the children are acutely malnourished."

WFP's Daly Belgasmi, Director of the agency's Geneva office, said; "With the lack of international attention to their plight, obtaining regular contributions of food aid for the Western Saharan refugees is extremely difficult."