Winter death danger looms: Jolie

Published November 26, 2005

ISLAMABAD, Nov 25: Hollywood star and United Nations refugee agency goodwill ambassador Angelina Jolie on Friday urged the world to honour its pledges of aid for Pakistani quake victims before winter causes a second wave of death.

MS Jolie, who toured the disaster zone with actor Brad Pitt on Thursday, also warned against allowing children orphaned by the disaster to be adopted too soon. The American actress herself has adopted a son and daughter from abroad.

“There are so many wonderful pledges that could come in the next few years, but this winter is in the next few weeks and so many people are in danger of possibly freezing to death,” Ms Jolie told reporters in Islamabad.

“There’s not just one disaster that happened, there’s another disaster that could happen very soon.”

Donors last week promised more than $5.8 billion for Pakistan but much is for long-term reconstruction and not immediate aid. The UN says cold, disease and hunger could swell the current death toll of more than 73,000.

“This is not to say there hasn’t been much aid. But the support obviously needs to continue to come and the pledges that were made need to materialise soon,” added Ms Jolie, dressed in a white UNHCR T-shirt.

Oscar-winner Jolie and Pitt — with whom she is romantically linked — handed out food, blankets and plastic sheeting to survivors in the mountains on Thursday, coinciding with a visit by the UN high commissioner for refugees.

Pitt was not at the press conference. UN sources said he was maintaining a low profile to keep the focus on Jolie’s charity work.

However Ms Jolie and Mr Pitt together visited President Musharraf on Friday to pledge the UN’s continued support for Pakistan, state media said.

Gen Musharraf thanked her for her “support and solidarity” and expressed gratitude to the world community, the APP reported.

Asked for her impressions of the devastation caused by the earthquake, she told the press conference: “It is a huge situation, you fly over these areas ....it is unbelievable.”

The actress said she had been touched “as a woman and as a mother” by talking to a young boy around the same age as her son in the remote northern Alai Valley, which has relied on helicopter airlifts for aid.

“He was so happy because his sister survived the earthquake and they didn’t think she would,” Ms Jolie said. But she said the boy was scared of aftershocks and survivors generally were “still understandably very traumatised.”

“These people have received aid but they are very far out, and they are very concerned about the winter coming,” added Ms Jolie, who is making her third visit to Pakistan.

The “Tomb Raider” star — who took charge of Ethiopian baby Zahara in July this year and brought Maddox, now four, home from an orphanage in Cambodia in 2002 — also said people should not “jump in” to adopt quake orphans.

“Sometimes you read that this many children are orphaned and this many children need homes. When there has been a disaster or war situation you are still hoping to locate families, you don’t exactly know the situation,” she said.

“So adoption at that time is not the best immediate option — it’s to get a warm environment that should continue. People sometimes jump in.”

Ms Jolie, whose previous trips to Pakistan have focused on the plight of Afghan refugees, did not comment on reports in the British media that she herself was keen to adopt one of Pakistan’s earthquake orphans.

UNHCR chief Antonio Guterres said Jolie had lent a “very strong, very committed, very intelligent and very courageous voice” to the cause of refugees around the world.

—AFP

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