George Clooney honours woman who saved 30,000 children during war


George Clooney has presented a million dollar (£700,000) humanitarian prize to a woman who acted as a "mother to all children" during the Burundi civil war.

Marguerite Barankitse, who saved the lives of 30,000 children during the country's war, was handed the inaugural Aurora Prize by the Hollywood actor at a ceremony in Yerevan, Armenia.

George Clooney in Armenia
George Clooney in Armenia (100 Lives/PA)

She was personally awarded 100,000 US dollars (£70,000) as well as a million dollar grant to nominate to a charity or organisation that has inspired her.

Barankitse, known as Maggie, was heralded by George as "extraordinary". He said all the finalists were people who "make the world a better place".

The star, who is visiting Armenia for the first time, earlier joined the president of Armenia, Serzh Sargsyan, in a solemn memorial service remembering the events of 1915 - when Armenians say the Ottoman Empire killed 1.5 million of its people. Modern-day Turkey strongly disputes claims that the events were a genocide, and the figures stated.

During the prize ceremony, George called for the world to recognise the "Armenian genocide".

George Clooney at the memorial service in Armenia
George Clooney at the memorial service (100 Lives/PA)

Barankitse saved thousands of children left orphans during civil war in Burundi between the Tutsis and the Hutu population.

At the height of the war in 1993, the 59-year-old, a Tutsi, sheltered a group of Hutus at the Catholic diocese where she worked.

She said she will use the grant, and the million dollar prize, to further her work in the region as violence erupts in Burundi once again.

George said Barankitse served as a "reminder of the impact that one person can have even when encountering seemingly insurmountable persecution and injustice".

He added: "By recognising Marguerite's courage, commitment and sacrifice, I am hopeful that she can also inspire each one of us to think about what we can do to stand up on behalf of those whose rights are abused and are in most need of our solidarity or support."