Hollywood star and refugee advocate Angelina Jolie appealed Friday for the swift delivery of promised aid to Pakistan, saying a new disaster threatens earthquake survivors when winter hits devastated mountain areas.
Jolie, a goodwill ambassador for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, spoke a day after touring quake-devastated areas with actor Brad Pitt. A donor conference last week raised international aid pledges to $5.8 billion.
"The pledges that were made need to materialize soon, because from what I'm understanding, there are so many wonderful pledges of money that could come in the next few years — but this winter is in the next few weeks, and so many people are in danger of possibly freezing to death," Jolie told a news conference in Pakistan's capital.
"There's another disaster that could happen very soon," she said.
The top U.N. official coordinating the relief effort, Jan Vandemoortele, also called for millions of dollars in urgent donations to help get survivors through the winter with food, shelter and health care, saying that the United Nations and other agencies had received less than half of the $550 million they asked for in a recent appeal.
"It is important to start building new hospitals and schools as soon as possible but it's most urgent to save the lives of thousands of children who could then make use of these schools," Vandemoortele said. "We urgently need extra millions of dollars to reach the earthquake survivors and other vulnerable victims, especially before the winter sets in."
On Thursday, Jolie and Pitt made an unannounced visit to a town that was largely destroyed, a tent camp for homeless survivors and a high mountain valley that was hit by the Oct. 8 quake, which killed an estimated 86,000 people and destroyed the homes of more than 3 million in Pakistan.
"These people there have not been given a lot of aid," Jolie said of the valley, where UNHCR officials said she traveled aboard a helicopter that brought food, blankets and plastic sheets to improve shelters. "They're very far out and they're very concerned about the winter coming."
Like U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres, who made a separate tour of the quake area on Thursday, Jolie expressed shock at the disaster's scale.
"You watch TV and you see the pictures, but nobody sitting at home has any idea what this really looks like," she said. "It's just unbelievable. You fly in a helicopter and you see ... just rubble, nothing standing."
Guterres has urged local officials and the international aid community to urgently prepare for the expected arrival of tens of thousands of people fleeing their high-altitude villages as winter sets in.
Other residents are expected to remain where they are. Aid agencies, along with the Pakistani army and NATO, are struggling to ensure those people get the help they need to survive the next few months.
While much of the pledged aid is meant for reconstruction, Jolie said the focus now is on survival and that many victims are still dealing with the horror of the quake.
"We're ready to go in and talk about, 'What are they going to do now ... what's going to happen,' and you see them and you realize after talking to them that they are still, understandably, very traumatized," she said.
Speaking at the same news conference, Guterres said there is a "strict obligation" to help Pakistan in its "moments of suffering" as payback for hosting millions of refugees from a quarter-century of war and chaos in neighboring Afghanistan.
He urged the international community to help Afghanistan with development projects that would allow for hundreds of thousands of returning refugees to integrate into the still-troubled, impoverished country.
"That is absolutely essential for voluntary repatriation to be sustainable," Guterres said.
Jolie and Pitt also met Friday with Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf.
Pitt, who did not attend Jolie's news conference, has been sporadically appeared with her for months since his breakup with actress Jennifer Aniston.
Jolie has made some 30 missions for the UNHCR since becoming a goodwill ambassador in 2001.