BEIRUT - Actress and UN special envoy Angelina Jolie made a surprise visit to Lebanon to draw attention to the challenges facing thousands of Syrian refugee children and to highlight the massive displacement Syria's three-year conflict has created, officials said Monday.
During a three-day visit, Jolie visited unaccompanied children living in the eastern Bekaa Valley, where much of the poorest Syrian refugees in Lebanon reside, as the United Nations Refugee Agency Special Envoy. The 3,500 children are those who were orphaned, or separated from their families as they fled into Lebanon.
They form part of the nearly one-third of all Syrians who have been displaced from their homes since an uprising against the President Bashar Assad began in March 2011. About 2.5 million Syrians have become refugees; and another 4.2 million are displaced within Syria, the UN estimates -- some one-third of the country's pre-war population.
"Meeting these children was a heart-rending experience," said Jolie in a statement issued via the UN. "They have lost their families and their childhood has been hijacked by war. They are so young, yet they are bearing the burdens of their reality as if they are adults." (Associated Press)