Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie said on Friday promises of help for Pakistan’s earthquake survivors must be kept, and quickly, or many people could freeze to death as a bitter Himalayan winter grips the region.
Jolie, a goodwill ambassador for the U.N. refugee agency, on Thursday visited a remote valley laid waste by the Oct. 8 earthquake that killed more than 73,000 people, most of them in the mountains of northern Pakistan.
“There’s another disaster that could happen very soon,” Jolie told a news conference in the capital, which she attended with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres.
She arrived in Pakistan on Thursday with actor Brad Pitt, with whom she has been romantically linked. Pitt did not attend the news conference.
Aid donors have promised Pakistan about $6 billion in help but most of that is for medium- and long-term reconstruction.
Jolie, on her third visit to Pakistan, said quake survivors needed help now.
“There’s so many wonderful pledges of money that could come in the next few years, but this winter is in the next few weeks,” she said.
“So many people are in danger of possibly freezing to death.”
Hundreds of thousands of quake survivors are still in need of emergency food and shelters, seven weeks after the disaster.
Aid officials warn of sickness sweeping through a cold and poorly nourished population, causing a second wave of death unless people get the help they need before the snow comes.
The United Nations said on Friday it had received $216 million for short-term emergency relief, or 39 percent of the amount it had appealed for, and said it urgently needed the rest before winter.
“The race to provide suitable shelter in time is not lost yet, but the consequences of failure, resulting from the lack of relief funds, could result in the deaths of vulnerable people,” said U.N. relief official Jan Vandemoortele.
Oscar-winning Jolie has traveled widely for the Nobel-winning U.N. agency, which protects people fleeing wars and persecution, including in Sierra Leone, Cambodia, Kosovo, Russia and Sudan’s Darfur region.
Asked about her impressions on her trip to the disaster zone, Jolie said the scale of the devastation was colossal.
“It’s a huge situation ... nobody sitting at home has any idea what this really looks like. It’s unbelievable,” she said.
Jolie said she had been struck while speaking to a little boy, the same age as her son, who was so grateful because his sister had lived.
“He was so happy because his sister survived the earthquake and they didn’t think she would,” she said.
Many survivors were still in shock, she said.
“You see them and you realize, after speaking to them for a while, that they are still, understandably, very traumatized.”
On her previous trips to Pakistan Jolie has visited Afghan refugees living in tent settlements along the border.
She and High Commissioner for Refugees Guterres both said the world was obliged to help Pakistan now, after all the help it had given Afghans.
“I’m sorry we have to do it,” she said of efforts to help Pakistani quake survivors. “I’m sorry we’re in this situation, but I am so glad to be here for them.” Guterres, who has also spoken of the need to avert a second tragedy among quake survivors over the winter, said Jolie lent a strong, committed, intelligent and courageous voice to the refugee cause.
She was also a symbol of the values behind the protection of refugees, in particular tolerance, he said.