In Angola, after a long period of escalating
tension, the political situation between government and rebel forces gave
way to war when, in December of 1998, government troops attacked the rebel
UNITA strongholds of Bailundo and Andulo. Sadly, this return to full scale
armed conflict occurred shortly after the November 1998 anniversary of
the Lusaka Peace Accord.
Background on the Situation
Throughout the past ten months, 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 in Catholic Relief Services target area. Additionally, there has been shelling around Balombo.
The land mine situation continues to be grave, threatening the lives and well being 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.
Who is CRS Reaching and With What Aid?
CRS/Angola has distributed aid to more than 200,000 people. This aid includes:
- Food ration packages including corn, beans, oil, and soap to approximately 108,000 internally displaced people, mostly based around the town of Cubal.
- Non-food relief items to over 90,600
families including agricultural tools, buckets, knives, kitchen pots and
Seeds and tools for more than 9,380 families in the Benguela Province to help these vulnerable families improve their food security.
Currently, CRS continues to develop new programs that will meet the emergency needs of the newly displaced people, while continuing its development activities.
The Latest Activities Include:
CRS has recently begun to select local organizations to work with in the second year of the agency's emergency preparedness and response-training program. As a result of this 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. The emphasis CRS places on capacity building and training in Angola has become a hallmark of CRS' implementation strategies throughout the world.
In early fall, CRS/Angola staff supported a Tetanus Vaccination Campaign. This complements the polio and measles immunization campaign CRS/Angola participated in over the summer that took place in the towns of Cubal and Lobito. CRS/Angola Health Staff are currently working with the Ministry of Health to develop a longer-term intervention to support polio prevention through support to both regular immunization activities, as well as national polio immunization days.
From August through October, Catholic Relief Services and the Caritas Cubal Health Team continued to help with developing community development committees (CDC's) in rural communities. The purpose of the CDC's, which now number 40, is to identify community concerns and mobilize community response with a goal towards of improved health conditions for our target population. Health staff have received training on malaria case management, health concerns of women of reproductive age and children under five. Additionally the projects support the Ministry of Health staff.
In October, CRS/Angola collaborated with ADRA, a local partner, in sponsoring a one-week, hands on training workshop for health staff focusing on child survival.
As part of our growing emergency response activities, CRS/Angola, in coordination with the local Caritas, initiated a feeding program in Cubal, targeting vulnerable residents and new internally displaced people. It has 14 kitchens and feeds 4,200 people a day. Additionally, in the month of August, nearly 2,500 blankets were distributed to all elderly registrants.
Due to increased demand, CRS/Angola will continue to support ongoing basic health care services at two hospitals in Cubal and Balombo. As more families are displaced to these municipal capitals, and rural health posts become inaccessible. 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 respectively.
Changes in nutrition levels in the past few months prompted CRS/Angola to begin addressing rising malnutrition and associated health problems. The Emergency Nutrition and Medical Care Program project offers critical support to nutrition centers on the coast, as well as in the interior areas of Cubal and Balombo. It also supports life-saving surgical care at the Cubal Diocesan hospital. CRS staff, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, will train center staff, provide essential medicines and nutrition supplies and food, with the support from the United Nations World Food Program. In November these activities will continue to expand on the coast and into Cubal. It is anticipated that these activities will offer support to a target population estimated at 79,000 war-affected individuals over a one-year period.
Regarding agriculture, CRS/Angola is preparing as the main growing season gets underway. The agency has begun to provide seeds, tools and sustainable farming technology for 1,500 farm families (benefiting nearly 7,500 individuals) on both the coast and in the interior of Benguela Province. Special humanitarian flights have carried these critical agriculture inputs to vulnerable farmers in the interior of the province. This Food Security Group, of which CRS/Angola is a member, is currently searching for available, arable and landmine free plots of land to provide to newly internally displaced families.
To complement these efforts on the coast, Food for Work activities in September cleared more than 8,600 meters of canals, in order to irrigate land benefiting nearly 800 vulnerable farm families. CRS/Angola also facilitated the formation of 10 local farmers' associations.