ACT Alert Angola - 1/2000: Malnutrition and Suffering continue

Geneva, 1 March 2000
At the beginning of a new millennium the people of Angola are in greater than ever need of external assistance. Angola in 1999 was one of the humanitarian blackspots of the world with more than 200 people dying a day from indirect effects of the war during one period. Events in other parts of the world ensured that Angola remained sidelined by the media and major donors and the international community remained ambivalent, unsure what to do about Angola. Although the military situation changed in late 1999, this has not translated into improvements in conditions of life for millions of Angolans who still fight daily with hunger, lack of basic necessities, lack of healthcare and of any means to create self-sufficiency in the medium term.

At the turn of the millennium the President of the Republic promised peace in 2000. However in January and February 2000 the signs are unfortunately that the war is not yet over. A number of attacks on people and property have taken place around the country; NGO workers have been killed by unidentified groups and convoys attacked. These incidents coincide with statements from UNITA threatening generalised guerrilla action.

Humanitarian situation

For much of 1999, Angola was characterised as “an impending humanitarian catastrophe on a previously unseen scale”. Malnutrition reached more than 30% in some of the besieged cities and total numbers of internally displaced persons (IDPs) reached 2 million according to some reports. Towards the second half of the year resident populations in the besieged cities started to experience life-threatening circumstances as food ran out and humanitarian relief aid focussed on IDPs. While the situation was indeed dire, the catastrophe predicted is felt to have been avoided, largely due to the work of national and international humanitarian relief and donor agencies.

In 2000, apart from the refugee crisis caused by fighting on the borders with Zambia and Namibia, we are again faced with the possibility of a major humanitarian crisis in Angola if help is not maintained and indeed increased. The territorial gains made by the government forces have slowly allowed access to populations previously behind UNITA lines. This means that up to 2 million more war-affected people will in all likelihood be in urgent need of help; only a proportion of which have yet been reached by relief agencies. This is in addition to IDPs and residents in parts of the country that remained accessible. In total, it is estimated that there are up to 3.7 million war-affected people, or a third of the population of Angola, with urgent basic needs including food aid, shelter, medicines and basic survival goods. Within this number can be included existing IDPs and residents who are not able yet to return to their areas of origin, communities that are newly-displaced following fresh fighting and banditry, communities previously in areas inaccessible to relief organisations and also those IDPs able to return to their areas of origin but who have nothing. There will be a particular need for seeds and tools to enable both the displaced and returning IDPs to develop self-sufficiency as early as possible.

ACT-Christian Aid is working in Angola through the church and NGO consortium Church Action in Angola (CAA). In 1999 CAA channelled more than $2.5m to local organisations towards emergency relief and rehabilitation programmes and development projects. Considering the current humanitarian situation in Angola, the help of the ACT network in supporting emergency programmes in Angola is now essential to help prevent further suffering.

It is expected that an appeal to the ACT network with details of a programme of action will be launched within the next two weeks. This will attempt to reach up to 50,000 war-affected families in various parts of the country as follows:

Project duration will be 12 months, consisting of emergency relief and medium-term agricultural rehabilitation components.

Thank you for your attention.

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