Hollywood star Angelina Jolie on Tuesday traveled to Iraq and appealed for more international support for the millions of people uprooted by war and violence.
Jolie, who has been to more than 20 countries since becoming a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations refugee agency six years ago, visited a makeshift camp housing 1,200 people in Iraq and spent hours speaking with Iraqis now living in Damascus.
I have come to Syria and Iraq to help draw attention to this humanitarian crisis and to urge governments to increase their support for UNHCR and its partners, the actress said in a statement released by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.
It is absolutely essential that the ongoing debate about Iraq's future includes plans for addressing the enormous humanitarian consequences these people face, she said.
Some 4.2 million people have fled their homes in Iraq, where violence remains widespread more than four years after U.S.-led forces invaded the country and toppled dictator Saddam Hussein.
The UNHCR and Iraqi Red Crescent estimate that more than 60,000 Iraqis people are uprooted every month, many choosing to leave ethnically mixed areas as a result of sectarian tensions that have become especially acute since the February 2006 bombings of a Shi'ite shrine in Samarra.
More than 2 million people are displaced within Iraq, and another 1.4 million are believed to be in Syria, which has kept its borders open to fleeing Iraqis. Jordan estimates it is hosting 500,000 to 750,000 Iraqis.
The UNHCR has sought $223 million in aid to help distribute emergency supplies to the most needy of those displaced inside Iraq. It has also asked donors for funds to get an additional 150,000 Iraqi children into schools in neighboring countries where their families have sought refuge.