Angelina Jolie wears many hats. She’s an award-winning actress, a filmmaker, a mother, and a committed activist for refugees, who has served as Special Envoy to UNHCR, the United Nations Refugee Agency, since 2012.
On Sunday, she put on the last of those hats, delivering an impassioned speech to Syrian refugees at the Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan and calling for the end of the Syrian Civil War.
“A viable political settlement is the only way to create the conditions for Syrians to return to their homes, and to end the human suffering and the strain on host countries,” Jolie said at a news conference held Sunday at Za’atari. “Humanitarian aid is not a long-term solution.”
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Jolie’s trip to Jordan, her fifth to the country and third to the camp, according to UNHCR, also included visits to refugee families. The actress was accompanied by two of her daughters, Zahara and Shiloh, who visited an aftercare program for girls.
On Sunday, she called on UN Security Council members to visit the camp, which houses an estimated 80,000 people, and “finally bring the full weight of the UN and international community to bear to solve this conflict.”
The Syrian Civil War, which began in 2011, is now entering its eighth year. According to experts who spoke with Al Jazeera, fighting is now relegated to a few parts of the country, such as Eastern Ghouta near Damascus and Idlib province, but hope for a political solution to the conflict remains low.
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"The Syrian government seems to be winning, in a slow, painful, imperfect sort of way,” Aron Lund, at The Century Foundation, told Al Jazeera. “Large areas of the country will remain beyond the control of Damascus for a long time still, and violence could ebb and flow for years.”
Since 2011, more than 5 million people have fled Syria and another 6 million are internally displaced, according to UN statistics. Nearly 1 million Syrians applied for asylum in European countries between April 2011 and October 2017.
Of the 80,000 refugees who have settled in Jordan’s Za’atari camp, more than half are children, according to the World Health Organization. In the camp, children are likely to experience physical, developmental, and mental health problems, with one in three individuals treated for mental illnesses being children.
There is also a lack of education in the camps, with more than one third of all children in Syrian refugee camps not receiving any formal education in 2015, Human Rights Watch reports.
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Despite these challenges, UNHCR and other aid organizations have not received enough funding to provide adequate services to these vulnerable populations, according to Jolie.
“Last year, the UNHCR response for the Syria crisis was only 50 percent funded,” Jolie said Sunday. “And so far in 2018, it is only 7 percent funded.”
“There is nothing more devastating for UNHCR staff than not to be able to give people the help they need and deserve,” she added.
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