Sept. 13, 2005 — -- The spotlight is nothing new to Angelina Jolie. Now, the tabloid favorite is working to deflect the attention that follows her every move to a part of the world that is often forgotten -- Africa.
"Africa is beautiful, marvelous, smart people, strong people, strong country and has a potential to be so much," Jolie told "Good Morning America" in advance of the release of a new MTV documentary chronicling her trip to a village in Kenya with Dr. Jeffrey Sachs of the U.N. Millennium Project. "I'd love to see Africa flourish because I think it would just … It's magnificent and it has so much hope, so much possibility."
Wednesday's MTV premiere of "The Diary of Angelina Jolie & Dr. Jeffrey Sachs in Africa" coincides with the opening of the U.N. Special Summit on Millennium Development Goals. In 2000, almost 200 world leaders vowed to work toward reducing extreme poverty, disease and hunger by 2015.
"This is not emergency relief," said Sachs, director of the U.N. Millennium Project. "This is an opportunity to solve poverty once and for all. It's not charity. It's an investment, an investment that could help make the world a safer place."
In Sauri, a group of small villages in Kenya, support from the U.N. provides bed nets to keep away mosquitoes carrying malaria, fertilizer to grow crops, school lunches so every child is assured one meal a day, school equipment, and anti-retroviral drugs for every person living with AIDS.
Jolie was in Sauri the first day a computer was delivered to the school.
"The first time they saw the computer, they weren't that excited," Jolie said. "Then I realized, of course they're not, because to them it was a weird box. So they've gone to the Internet from zero to 60."
Jolie has been a U.N. goodwill ambassador since 2001, and has traveled to 15 countries. For Jolie, the pictures of devastation following Hurricane Katrina were all too familiar.
"We should look at what you've been watching on the news last week. This is what's happening around the world," she said. "This is what's happening to the people that are the most vulnerable, are poor. The people that are thought of maybe too late are the poor. Hopefully, it [Katrina] will make people that much more, you know, question what's going on with our government, what we're taking care of, what we're not taking care of in our own country and around the world."
Jolie's humanitarian work inspired her to adopt two children. Maddox, 4, is from Cambodia and this summer Jolie brought home baby Zahara from Ethiopia.
"My daughter came, she was six months old and not nine pounds," Jolie said. "Her skin, you could squeeze it, it stuck together. It was terrifying. Just to see the difference of what food a little bit of care takes. She's gained like six pounds, which we're calling her Chubby. She's just a totally different baby."
Since Jolie adopted Zahara, interest in adopting children from Ethiopia has surged. At Adoption Advocates International, requests for applications have doubled. In the last year, 289 Ethiopians have been adopted by American families. The process takes at least three months after an application is filed.
"It's just been a big lesson to me in what can be done," Jolie said. "She was a matter of life or death, because some children that were in a very similar situation to her passed away at that time, who didn't get out in time."
Jolie said Maddox loves being a big brother.
"He came to the orphanage and he saw where she was living, and he saw she needed care," Jolie said. "Kids understand sadness and poverty and hunger. She was sick and he was with her in the hospital. She had an IV in her, and he was sitting there and telling the doctors not to touch my little sister!"
Jolie said her children motivate her to continue her humanitarian work.
"They give me so much joy, and I want to make a better world for them," Jolie said. "I'm fortunate to do what I get to do to be here, to talk about these issues. I'm just grateful every day that I have the chance."
In addition to bringing attention to the United Nations' work, Jolie also lends financial support. Since 2001, she has donated $3 million to the U.N. She has said that she donates a third of her salary to charity, saves a third and lives off another third.
The U.S. gives 16 cents for every $100 of income to international charities, which is .016 percent of gross national product.
In a U.N. General Assembly resolution 35 years ago, member nations committed to provide 0.7 percent of gross national product to development assistance, but so far only five industrialized nations (Sweden, Denmark, Luxemburg, Netherlands and Norway) have met the goal.