Sophie Wessex meets female refugees displaced by the conflict in Syria as she makes the first ever official royal visit to Lebanon
- Countess of Wessex, 54, visited refugee camps during her visit to Lebanon
- Marks the first time a British royal visited the Western Asian country in history
- Was visiting the country at the request of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office
- Met women as part of her work to support sexual assault victims in war zones
- Shared sweet moments with children of camp, including girl named Sidra, six
The Countess of Wessex has arrived in Lebanon for a surprise visit to meet Syrian refugees displaced by conflict.
During a day of engagements, the royal will also meet with UK-supported NGOs addressing sexual and gender-based violence in the region.
This morning she visited a settlement of Syrian refugees in Bekaa Valley, Lebanon.
Sophie’s trip is the first official visit to Lebanon by a member of the British royal family, according to Buckingham Palace.
Sophie Countess of Wessex (pictured) at the Bekaa Valley refugee camp in Lebanon, where she met Syrian refugee women who have been displaced following the conflict in the region
Sophie Wessex being shown around an informal tented settlement in the Bekaa Valley. This is the first time that a British Royal has visited Lebanon in an official capacity
For the occasion she wore a modest outfit made of a blue skirt with a maroon blouse.
Her blonde locks were tucked in a neat bun and she kept her jewelry to a minimum.
While she visited the settlement, Sophie spotted a toddler and stopped to meet their mother. All smiles, the countess talked to the child as volunteers and refugees looked on.
She later interacted with more children, including a little girl who seemed a bit starstruck.
During her stay in Lebanon, Sophie will hear how the UK is championing women’s engagement in peace and security issues in the region, and recognise the ongoing humanitarian response to the Syria crisis from both the UK and Lebanon.
During her visit to the refugee settlement, Sophie shared a tender moment with one of the children sitting on the lap of a Syrian woman (pictured)
The Countess could not resist stroking the baby’s cheek during her visit to the refugee settlement in Bekaa Valley, Lebanon
Historical tensions between Lebanon and Syria means that Syrian refugees have to create their own ‘informal’ settlements using tents, as they won’t be housed in refugee camps
The countess announced her commitment to supporting the UK’s efforts in the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda, and the Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative (PSVI) earlier this year.
The latter organisation was set up by actress Angelina Jolie and former former foreign secretary William Hague in 2014.
Sophie (pictured) talking to the female refugees who are staying at the settlement after being displaced by the conflict in Syria
Two men show Sophie the reality of the informal Syrian settlement that was set up in Bekaa Valley
Writing in the Telegraph ahead of International Women’s Day, Sophie called on those in power to help end rape and sexual violence in war zones and to follow the UK’s lead by ‘putting more women and girls at the centre of conflict resolution’.
Sophie met with Jolie, a UNHCR special envoy, in November at the Fighting Stigma Through Film festival in London.
Around the same time, she met with Nobel Peace laureate Denis Mukwege, a , Congolese gynaecologist nicknamed ‘Doctor Miracle’ for his surgical skill and dedication in helping women overcome the injuries and trauma of sexual abuse and rape.
The Countess of Wessex (left) walks through an informal tented settlement in the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon, during the first official Royal visit to the country
Sophie recalled a conversation at the roundtable discussion in which Dr. Mukwege said the biggest obstacle in tackling the problem is the ‘silence’ around discussing issue.
Dr. Mukwege’s Panzi hospital has treated tens of thousands of victims of sexual violence in his war-weary native province of South Kivu, part of an eastern region riven by a conflict involving government forces and countless rebel groups.
His work, which focuses on ‘atrocities on women’s bodies’, was the subject of an acclaimed 2015 film titled The Man Who Mends Women.
Jolie’s initiative, the PSVI, has worked tirelessly to help women affected by sexual violence in war-torn countries like South Sudan and the Democratic Republic Of Congo.
Later Sophie met with another of the children of the camp, a shy six-year-old girl (pictured) named Sidra
Pictured: Sophie and Sidra sharing a sweet moment together during the Countess of Wessex’s visit in Lebanon
Writing in the Telegraph today, Sophie praised the work of the organisation as well as that of Women, Peace and Security (WPS) which aims to reduce the devastating impact of war on women and girls.
Speaking about the problems faced by women in conflict zones, she said: ‘The consequences of conflict do not go away when the guns are laid down.’
The Countess of Wessex has made women’s issues a cornerstone of her humanitarian work and founded the Women’s Network Forum in 2014.
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