UNHCR special envoy Jolie visits Mosul, urges support for rebuilding

UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie meets Falak, 8, during a visit to West Mosul, Iraq June 16, 2018. UNHCR/Andrew McConnell/Handout via REUTERS

ERBIL, Iraq (Reuters) – U.N. refugee agency special envoy Angelina Jolie visited Mosul in northern Iraq on Saturday and urged the international community not to forget residents trying to rebuild their city.

Iraqi forces seized Mosul in July 2017 from Islamic State militants, who had occupied the city three years earlier and turned it into a stronghold of a “caliphate,” in a military campaign that saw 900,000 residents flee.

The Hollywood actress met families from western Mosul and walked through bombed out streets, according to video footage and photos provided by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Normality has returned to many parts of Mosul, with displaced residents leaving camps nearby and going back home.

But the old city in West Mosul was largely destroyed during a campaign by a 100,000-strong alliance of Iraqi government units, Kurdish Peshmerga fighters and Shi’ite militias backed by air support from a U.S.-led coalition.

Reconstruction has been slow.

“This is the worst devastation I have seen in all my years working with UNHCR. People here have lost everything,” Jolie said in a U.N. statement.

“They are destitute. They have no medicine for their children, and many have no running water or basic services,” she said. “I hope there will be a continued commitment to rebuilding and stabilizing the whole of the city. And I call on the international community not to forget Mosul.”

Jolie has worked for UNHCR since 2001, visiting uprooted civilians from Iraq to Cambodia and Kenya. It is her fifth visit to Iraq, UNHCR said.