Angelina Jolie, Ban Ki-Moon Visit Za'atri Syrian Refugee Camp In Jordan

 @MayaErgas on December 07 2012 1:13 PM

Actress and UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie made a second trip to the Syrian-Jordanian border to meet with Syrians living in the Za'atri refugee camp, the UNHCR reported on Thursday.

The region has experienced an influx of 200,000 more refugees flooding across the border since Jolie's last visit in September. Jolie and her partner, Brad Pitt, recently donated $50,000 to Jordan to buy more tents for the refugees. 

"What I saw last night is a dramatic example of the plight of hundreds of thousands of Syrians who have been uprooted by the fighting and are in a desperate search for safety," Jolie told the press on Thursday." Civilians inside the country are being targeted. Many of those trying to flee are exposed to extreme danger right up to the border itself. I appeal to all sides in the conflict to do all they can to ensure the safe passage of these innocent civilians."

Jolie arrived in Amman Wednesday night and, after traveling to the border and meeting with Jordanian officials, praised Jordan for its "incredible compassion." 

"Jordan has welcomed the refugees even though it has placed a huge burden on the country," she said. "The international community needs to show more solidarity and to support Jordan and the other countries in the region who continue to keep their borders open."

The UNHCR estimates that half a million Syrian refugees have fled Syria since fighting began in March 2011, and hundreds of thousands more are unregistered. The number of registered refugees alone doubled between September and November, bringing the total number to more than 200,000, already exceeding the UNHCR's expectations for the year. They estimate that, by the end 2012, more than 750,000 people will have fled Syria

In October , UNHCR estimated there were a little more than 100,000 registered refugees in Jordan and perhaps another 85,000 who were unregistered. The Za'atri camp currently houses an estimated 38,000 people. The U.N. also estimates there are 2.5 million displaced Syrians still inside the country who need aid and are unable to leave. An estimated 42,000 people have been killed since March 2011 when the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad erupted.

While visiting Za'atri, Jolie met with a few families who had just crossed the border. Several who had crossed overnight had to be hospitalized for bullet wounds. One wounded child lost his leg.

Of special concern now is the Za'atri's camp winter preparedness levels. Temperatures are now droppping below freezing at night. UNHCR said that gas heaters are being provided, tents are being reinforced with insulation, and thermal blankets and winter clothing are being handed out, but the constant flow of new arrivals means UNCHR is already struggling to keep up.

"Winter is already here, and UNHCR and its partners still lack 50 percent of the funds needed to get everyone through the next few difficult months," Jolie said. "Despite all the good work being done so far, it's clear here on the ground that all the resources are now stretched to the limit. This is going to be a very tough few months."

Jolie also previously visited a Syrian refugee camp in the Hatay province in southern Turkey in June, 2011.

Jolie was appointed a U.N. goodwill ambassador in 2001, and in 2012 UNHCR High Commission António Guterres appointed her as a UNHCR special envoy, focusing on large-scale crises and mass population displacement.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon arrived at Za'atri on Friday and visited camps in Turkey, where his spokesman said he also met with the Turkish President Abdullah Gul and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

A spokesperson for Ban in New York said that the secretary general was "shocked, humbled and deeply moved by the stories families shared with him." Ban also made an appeal for more funds for humanitarian assistance, noting that Syrian Humanitarian Assistance Response Plan is only 50 percent funded.

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