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Borat actor gives $1M to help Syria

Actor Sacha Baron Cohen and his wife Isla Fisher have donated $1 million to charities supporting victims of the conflict in Syria.

The comedian and actor best-known for his characters Ali G and Borat, and his wife, who is also an Hollywood actress, donated $1 million to be shared between U.K.-based charity Save the Children and the New-York based charity International Rescue Committee.

Save the Children said $500,000 would be used to fund a program vaccinating more than 250,000 children against a potential measles outbreak in northern Syria, according to a press release on Sunday.


Sacha Baron Cohen and Isla Fisher attend Wimbledon in 2015.
Karwai Tang/WireImage
Sacha Baron Cohen and Isla Fisher attend Wimbledon in 2015.

The other half of the money, the charity said, "would be used to help fund the work to support families, with a special concern for women and children, both inside Syria and in neighboring countries who are suffering as a result of the ongoing conflict."

"The money will go towards education, health care, shelter and sanitation," it added.

Save the Children estimated that there are currently 4 million refugees in neighboring states and over 7 million displaced inside Syria.

"It has been estimated that around 12,000 children have been killed in the conflict and the real number may be much higher. Some sources have indicated that thousands of children have been killed by barrel bombs alone," the charity said.

Civil war has been raging in Syria for the past four years. The conflict has its roots in 2011 when the Arab Spring uprisings in the region encouraged protests against Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Several years on and there are numerous rebel groups fighting Assad's regime but to complicate matters further, those rebels are also vying for control of the country with terrorist group Islamic State (ISIS). One million migrants and refugees arrived in Europe in 2015, according to the latest data from the United Nations (UN) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), with one-in-every-two of those estimated to be of Syrian nationality.

Many have made dangerous journeys with small children and babies and Save the Children's chief executive said children were "the first victims" of the conflict in the country.

"There is no safe place left in Syria, with shelling and violence omnipresent. Food and medicines have become scarce and basic necessities unaffordable. Syria's health system has collapsed and deadly childhood diseases – like measles - which had previously been all but eradicated have now returned, threatening the lives of hundreds of thousands of children," Justin Forsyth said.

He said that the "generous donation" from Baron Cohen and Fisher would help "highlight the tragedy of the issue today."

"These are desperate times for Syrian families facing bombs, bullets and torture in Syria. The couple's donation will save many thousands of lives and protect some of the most vulnerable children," he added.

David Miliband, the former U.K. foreign secretary and current president and chief executive of the International Rescue Committee – a nongovernmental aid organization - said that as hope for the end of the conflict recedes, "it is all the more important to meet the most basic human needs."

"Sacha and Isla's donation is a great expression of humanity, and a challenge to do more for the most vulnerable. I hope it is an example to many others seeking practical ways of making a difference during the Christmas and New Year season," he said in a statement.

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