Angelina Jolie

GENEVA (AFP) –  Hollywood star Angelina Jolie on Tuesday pleaded with the international community to step up aid to the Horn of Africa, saying that its response would determine “whether huge numbers of people live or die.”

“Today three-quarters of a million people are at risk of death in the next four months in the Horn of Africa,” Jolie told envoys gather at a meeting of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees’ executive committee.

“This astonishing number of at-risk lives is the reason this is termed the humanitarian crisis of the generation. The work we are doing needs to scale up to meet the needs of these individuals,” noted the goodwill ambassador for the UNHCR.

“How we continue to respond to the situation of malnutrition and famine is going to define the work of NGOs, governments, and international organisations working in the Horn of Africa.

“It will quite starkly determine whether huge numbers of people live or die,” added Jolie.

The actress acknowledged that rich countries are feeling budgetary pressures, but she urged them to “remain committed to the world’s most vulnerable people.”

Drought, high food prices and relentless combat in Somalia have pushed the number of those in need of humanitarian assistance across the Horn of Africa up to 13.3 million, according to UN data.

IN OTHER NEWS, Hollywood star Sean Penn on Tuesday flew in to Benghazi – the epicentre of rebellion against Moamer Kadhafi – to assess at first hand the humanitarian needs of the people of Libya.

“This is my first visit to inspirational Libya. I am inspired by the Arab Spring and am here to be able to get a sense of what humanitarian aid can be delivered” to the people, Penn told AFP after landing at Benghazi airport.

Penn, who arrived from a visit to Egypt, is set to meet humanitarian organisations already working in Libya and also to meet high-ranking officials and leaders of the uprising that toppled the now fugitive former strongman.

“It is amazing what is happening in this part of the world, be it Tunisia, Egypt or Libya. These are my initial moments. I am here to take it in,” the actor said, flashing a V for victory sign to a small crowd at the airport.

“What is happening here makes it all the more important to see what humanitarian aid is needed,” he said, adding that he will be in the country for a “couple of days.”

On Friday, the two-time Oscar winner for best actor was among thousands gathered in Cairo’s Tahrir Square to protest against Egypt’s military rulers’ handling of the transition since the toppling in February of Hosni Mubarak.

Penn won best actor Oscars in 2004 for Mystic River and in 2009 for Milk.