Angelina Jolie Visits Rainy Refugee Camp in Lebanon, Urges International Community to Take Action

Angelina Jolie walks in the rain as she arrives for a press conference at a Syrian refugee camp in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley on March 15. Credit: Patrick Baz/AFP/Getty Images

Speaking from the heart. Angelina Jolie gave a passionate speech at a press conference outside a camp for Syrian refugees in Lebanon on Tuesday, March 15, calling on world leaders to help millions of people displaced by a long-running civil war in the Middle Eastern country.

As rain pelted her face at the refugee camp in Fayda in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley on the fifth anniversary of the conflict, the Special Envoy to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees told reporters she'd hoped to be in Syria "watching families I have come to know be able to go home."

"It is tragic and shameful that we seem to be so far from that point," Jolie, 40, said, according to the Lebanese government's National News Agency.

She noted that 6.5 million people have been displaced inside Syria, and there are 4.8 million refugees overall in the Middle East and North Africa. Most of those displaced are women and children, the Oscar-winning actress added.

"I have seen on this visit just how desperate the struggle to survive now is for these families," Jolie said. "After five years of exile, any savings they had have been exhausted. Many who started out living in apartments now cluster in abandoned shopping centers, or informal tented settlements, sinking deeper into debt."

While there has been a great deal of news coverage of Syrians fleeing to Europe, the Maleficent star explained that the problem is much larger than that, and that it's not enough for the governments of the world to give financial aid to the U.N. "We have to focus on the absolute root causes, and that takes a certain amount of courage and leadership."

"I understand that people in many different countries have fears about the refugee situation," the mother of six said. "It is not wrong to feel unsettled, faced by a crisis of such complexity and such magnitude. But we must not let fears get the better of us."

The Unbroken director spoke of visiting with a Syrian mother who was paralyzed after being shot by a sniper. She and her family now live in one room in the refugee settlement in Lebanon.

"Never once during our discussion did she ask for anything, did she stop smiling, or talk of anything other than her desire for her children to have the chance to go to school and have a better life," Jolie said.

"When I saw her beautiful smile, and her dedicated husband and children looking after her, I was in awe of them," she continued. "They are heroes to me."

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