Jolie highlights need for continued assistance in Sierra Leone
FREETOWN, Sierra Leone, May 11 (UNHCR) - Mention refugees in West Africa, and you're likely to think of the recent outflow from Togo, the high-profile Liberian repatriation, or even potential returns with the Ivorian peace agreement. Three years after the end of its civil war, Sierra Leone threatens to drop out of public attention, but not if UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie can help it.
Jolie is currently on a three-day mission to Sierra Leone at the invitation of the government. She paid a visit yesterday to the Rainbo Centre for survivors of sexual and gender based violence, spoke to some of the survivors and learned about the government's role in sensitising its citizens about this form of violence.
The Rainbo Centre, which is funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and run by the International Rescue Committee (IRC), mirrors the programmes against sexual and gender based violence that are implemented by IRC and funded by UNHCR in three refugee camps for Liberians in Sierra Leone.
"The work done at the Rainbo Centre is so important; helping survivors of sexual and gender based violence overcome their traumas is no easy task," said Jolie. "I simply wish these women had never gone through this violence."
The UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador also made an impromptu visit to the Ministry of Health's Princess Christian Maternity Hospital in the refugee-hosting settlement of Kissy Town, where she saw and spoke to mothers who recently delivered babies. The hospital, which is quite run-down after Sierra Leone's devastating 10-year war, is undergoing rehabilitation to improve the services for expecting and delivering mothers.
"Ms. Jolie's visit helps to highlight the need for continued international support to Sierra Leone as it copes with the aftershocks of the traumatic violence and social disintegration so recently suffered by the population as a whole," said UNHCR's Acting Representative, Andrew Mayne.
Jolie took a break from her schedule to meet with the UNHCR staff in Freetown, among them field officers who had hosted her on her very first mission with the UN refugee agency back in 2001. Since then, she has travelled the world with UNHCR to help refugees in more than 15 countries.
In Sierra Leone for the second time, the American actress travelled with a staff member of Witness, a non-governmental organisation founded by musician Peter Gabriel that uses video to sensitise the world on human rights abuses. Today, she attended a screening of "Witness to Truth", the official video produced by Witness to accompany the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report. She plans to discuss the commission with President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah later this week.
By Rachel Goldstein
UNHCR Sierra Leone