photo by jon nicholson

feature story - Board Member Matt Damon Visits Zimbabwe Border

march 4th, 2009

In an effort to help draw attention to the country’s continuing humanitarian crisis, Not On Our Watch board member Matt Damon traveled to the Zimbabwe border town of Musina on Tuesday, meeting with Zimbabwean refugees forced to flee their home country to survive. The visit follows last month's high level Not On Our Watch advocacy trip to the Darfur region with founder George Clooney.

Speaking with victims of rape and government-sponsored violence, orphaned and unaccompanied children, and those fleeing the collapse of public health and education systems, Damon aimed to bring greater attention and assistance to the ongoing crisis in Zimbabwe as part of his work with Not On Our Watch. Zimbabwe’s longstanding political and human rights crises have recently been compounded by an ongoing cholera epidemic that has reached 80,000 cases, with approximately 4,000 deaths resulting. The United Nations World Food Programme reports that nearly 7 million Zimbabweans are in need of food assistance (well over half the country’s population), and UNICEF estimates that approximately 15% of the population is infected with HIV/AIDS.

After speaking with local aid workers, United Nations officials and Zimbabwean refugees, Damon called the situation “untenable.” As the future for many Zimbabwean refugees remains uncertain, Damon added, “I have spoken to so many people who went through so much to get to this point. It is testament to the situation across the border in Zimbabwe.” He reiterated a call to the international community to take immediate action to address worsening conditions for citizens both inside and outside the country.

Damon’s trip continues Not On Our Watch’s recent high-profile international advocacy efforts. In February of 2009, board member George Clooney traveled to the Chad-Sudan border in anticipation of the International Criminal Court (ICC) ruling on an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. Clooney was accompanied by The NY Times’ Nicholas Kristof and NBC News’ Ann Curry. Upon return, Clooney met with U.S. President Obama and Vice President Biden at the White House to push for a high level, full-time U.S. envoy to Darfur.



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