The agency is working directly with local government ministries and non-governmental organization officials to secure a timely and effective response to future emergencies. "Responses to chronic emergencies will be enhanced and most importantly, the lives of Angolans will be improved," says Catholic Relief Services/Angola Country Representative, Jennifer George.
Catholic Relief Services Most Recent Activities
In response to the armed conflict and as part of the agency's growing emergency response activities, CRS/Angola in coordination with the local Caritas, initiated a feeding program in the town of Cubal. This program targets vulnerable residents and new internally displaced people. It has 14 kitchens and feeds 4,200 people a day. Additionally, nearly 2,500 blankets were recently distributed to all elderly residents.
In addition to feeding those at risk of malnutrition through the program noted above, Catholic Relief Services' emergency nutrition and medical program supports women and children. The program offers critical aid to malnourished children and pregnant/lactating women living on the coast of Benguela province, as well as in the interior areas of Cubal and Balombo. The seven therapeutic and supplementary feeding centers that the agency supports have helped a total of 2,000 malnourished people in the past three months.
Due to increased demand, CRS/Angola will continue to support ongoing basic health care services at two hospitals in Cubal and Balombo, in collaboration with the Theresian Sisters in Cubal, and the Daughters of Charity from Spain in Balombo. These two hospitals, the only referral hospitals within 100 kilometers of both locations, provide health care to an estimated 40,000 and 200,000 war-affected individuals.
The emphasis Catholic Relief Services places on strengthening and training local partners in Angola is a hallmark of the agency's implementation strategies throughout the world. In Angola, Catholic Relief Services is in the process of working with ten local organizations on the CRS Emergency Preparedness and Response Training Program, a program now in its second year. Seven organizations that participated in the first year of the Emergency Preparedness and Response Training (EPRT) have received a $5,000 grant. As a result of the EPRT program, the Angolan government, local organizations, and communities throughout the country will be more capable of preparing for and responding to ongoing and sporadic civil disruptions in Angola.
Reaching 7,500 members of farming families, CRS/Angola distributed seeds, tools, nearly 1325 pounds of corn seed, and sustainable farming technology in coastal and interior areas of the Benguela Province. Special humanitarian flights carried these critical agriculture items to vulnerable farmers. To complement these efforts, Food for Work activities have helped repair 33 miles of canals. Water management has been improved and land previously uncultivated during the rainy season will be cultivated this year.
In January, CRS/Angola's Agriculture Team went to Ganda and Cubal to help local staff give trainings on agriculture techniques. In Catumbela, five farmer associations, consisting of 234 members, were trained by local farm leaders.
Background on the Situation
Throughout the past year, the violence and fighting has increased steadily. Currently there is almost no road access for humanitarian assistance. This mode of travel puts both drivers and goods at risk for attack. Additionally, road attacks targeting civilian vehicles are occurring frequently. For safety reasons, humanitarian aid is being delivered primarily by plane, an expensive and limited alternative. Increased insecurity throughout the country, especially in the early part of 1999, led to major population movements towards provincial towns. Internally displaced persons numbering more than 13,140 in Balombo and nearly 29,000 in Cubal are currently being reached by Catholic Relief Services.
The land mine situation continues to be grave, threatening the lives and wellbeing of thousands of Angolan citizens. On top of the millions of undetonated ordinances remaining from previous fighting, reports indicate that both government and the UNITA rebel troops are laying new mines. In July 1999, a new peace movement was launched calling for negotiations and an end to the fighting in Angola. By the end of the month the movement had reportedly gained the signatures of more than 13,000 prominent people. During a meeting of the Angolan Catholic Bishops, a pastoral message entitled "Let us Save the Lives of Angolans" was presented. The message vehemently condemns the war in Angola.