Pau Gasol Visits Syrian Refugees in Iraq

July 31, 2013 4:57 pm PDT


DOHUK, IRAQ / BARCELONA, SPAIN (July 30, 2013) – UNICEF Ambassador and National Basketball Association (NBA) star Pau Gasol, returned today to Barcelona, Spain following a visit with Syrian refugees in Iraq.

Pau Gasol and UNICEF
Pau with Syrian children in one of the schools inside Domiz, a refugee camp in northern Iraq, where he delivered some drawings that students of the School Julián Besteiro (Perales del Río, Madrid, Spain) prepared for the refugee children.

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More than 1.7 million people -of which around 50 percent are children- have fled the armed conflict in Syria into neighboring countries, including more than 160,000 in Iraq.

“I met children who have fled from a tragic situation in Syria and are now urgently dependent on humanitarian aid,” said Gasol, a two-time NBA Champion with the Los Angeles Lakers. “It is shocking to learn what these children, who have been affected by the conflict in Syria, have experienced. No child should have to endure such violence and destruction, or be deprived of the basic services they need to grow and develop to fulfill their potential.”

In Iraq, Pau met a number of children including a 10-year-old boy named Sulinam who told him, “in Syria, our shop was destroyed. I want the war to end there so that I can return home and my brothers and sisters and I can go back to school.”

Some of the UNICEF responses to the crisis that Gasol saw during his visit include: the provision of clean drinking water and adequate sanitation facilities, primary education, health care, and child protection services.

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To date, inside Syria and in neighboring countries hosting Syrian refugees, UNICEF has provided 10 million people with access to safe water, more than 1.9 million children with vaccinations against measles and 260,000 with access to education, among other responses.

“Providing these services is a huge job,” said Gasol. “The needs are enormous and much more help is needed.”

The humanitarian crisis related to the Syrian conflict is unprecedented with the UN having made its largest ever humanitarian appeal as well as calling on governments to find an immediate end to the tragedy. The lack of funding to respond to the emergency is severely limiting UNICEF’s ability to respond. UNICEF urgently needs $300 million to continue to provide essential services to help Syrian children.

Pau Gasol and UNICEF
Pau Gasol has visited five countries as an ambassador for UNICEF, including South Africa (2005) and Angola (2007) where he visited projects on the fights against HIV/AIDS, Ethiopia (2010) where he visited programs supporting the “Schools for Africa” initiative, Chad (2012) where he visited programs around the response to the nutritional crisis in the Sahel, and Iraq (2013) where he visited programs supporting refugees of the conflict in Syria. Pau has been helping to promote UNICEF’s work on behalf of child survival and development for a decade both in Spain and the United States.