UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie with refugee girls during a past visit to Kenya. PHOTO/UNHCR
By PATRICK MAYOYO
UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie marked World Refugee Day 2017 visiting adolescent refugee girls in Kenya.
Ms Jolie met around 20 refugee girls, who are unaccompanied or separated from their parents and are now living in the Heshima Kenya Safe House and participating in a Girls’ Empowerment Programme.
The girls have fled extreme violence or persecution in Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), South Sudan, Somalia, Burundi, and Rwanda. Almost all have suffered sexual and gender-based violence, robbing them of their childhoods.
Many have given birth after being raped, or are pregnant. They told the Special Envoy about their personal stories and their lives today.
“Over half of all refugees and displaced people worldwide are women and children. How we treat them is a measure of our humanity as nations,” Ms Jolie said.
The UNHCR Special Envoy said on World Refugee day people around the world should consider the pain and suffering of young girls and women are going through in refugee camps.
“Not only have they had to flee extreme violence or persecution, lost everything and witnessed the death of family members, but they have also had to face so much abuse and intolerance and hardship,” she added.
UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie during a visit to Kenya. PHOTO/UNHCR
Ms Jolie said refugees are doing their best to carry on, with minimal support trying to live lives on dignity against impossible odds.
“It was an honour to spend the day with them,” she observed.
It was Angelina Jolie’s third visit to Kenya, home to nearly 491,000 refugees from neighbouring Somalia, South Sudan, DRC, Burundi and other countries in the region.
Most of the 67,000 urban refugees in Kenya struggle to survive on handouts from UNHCR and other humanitarian organizations, and many are struggling to recover from horrifying abuse and terror endured before or during their flight.
“Kenya hosts close to half a million refugees and we at UNHCR are very grateful to the people and government of Kenya for that,” the Special Envoy said.
Among the refugees in Kenya are 101,713 from South Sudan, which has now become the biggest new factor in global forced displacement after the disastrous break-up of peace efforts in July 2016 contributed to an outflow of 737,400 people by the end of the year.