Catholic Relief Services continues its
dedicated work in Angola, a country plagued by a long period of tension
between government and rebel forces. This situation finally gave way to
war between the factions in December of 1998.
"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. The agency is working directly with local government ministries and non-governmental organization officials to secure a timely and effective response to future emergencies.
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 internally displaced people. It has 14 kitchens and feeds 4,200 people a day. Additionally, nearly 2,500 blankets were distributed to all elderly residents.
Catholic Relief Services' emergency nutrition and medical program supports women and children. The program feeds those at risk of malnutrition, as noted above and 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 over the past three months.
Throughout January, teams continued to visit neighborhoods on the coast and interior areas of Cubal and Balombo. Admissions of malnourished children increased at all seven centers, due to difficulties encountered in getting food during the rainy season. Distribution of nutrition materials continued as teams continued to visit neighborhoods and identify malnourished children.
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, continue to provide health care to an estimated 40,000 and 200,000 war-affected individuals.
In January, Catholic Relief Services Senior Health managers visited the Balombo Hospital support project managed by the Daughters of Charity. The purpose of the visit was to evaluate the general security and work environment of the municipality. The Senior Health managers also visited several hospital wards, the pharmacy, nutrition centers and various hospital warehouses. The agency was asked to increase project activities in the area.
Catholic Relief Services places emphasis on strengthening and training local partners. This program 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, local communities have repaired 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 the towns of Ganda and Cubal to help local staff give training on agriculture techniques. In Catumbela, local farm leaders trained five farmer associations, consisting of 234 members.
Background on the Situation
Over the past year, the violence and fighting has increased steadily. There is barely any available road access for humanitarian assistance. Travel in this capacity puts both drivers and supplies at risk for attack. Road attacks targeting civilian vehicles are a still a frequent occurrence. For safety reasons, humanitarian aid is being delivered primarily by plane, an expensive and limited alternative. In 1999, increased insecurity throughout the country led to major population movements towards provincial towns. Internally displaced persons numbering more than 13,000 in Balombo and nearly 29,000 in Cubal are 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.
CRS became active in Angola in 1989 when it provided food assistance to war and drought-affected people. In early 1992 a semblance of peace returned to the country and CRS/Angola began to focus on rehabilitation and development activities. War broke out again later that same year and CRS/Angola reverted to providing emergency relief. CRS/Angola works to shift programs toward rehabilitation and development in hopes of encouraging long-term solutions to Angola's root social and economic problems. The agency currently maintains four offices in Angola in Lobito, Luanda, Cubal and Balombo.