Looking back at what she called a "grim year", Marjolaine Martin, Senior Humanitarian Affairs Officer of the UN's Humanitarian Assistance Coordination Unit (UCAH), said UN agencies, local and international NGOs had provided relief food and assistance to approximately 550,000 vulnerable Angolans in 1999.
Most of those assisted had sought refuge in government-held cities besieged by UNITA rebels, and their numbers constitute roughly a quarter of those in need. Sergio Vieira de Mello, the UN's Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, told the Security Council recently that 2 million Angolans are living a precarious existence, in need of or dependent on aid.
"We estimate that another three million people are entirely inaccessible and their condition is therefore impossible to assess," he said. Martin told IRIN the humanitarian crisis was further exacerbated by the fact that in many places to which people had fled in their tens of thousands this year, the resident populations were equally, if not more vulnerable and therefore dependent on aid.
"If there was peace in Angola tomorrow, it would very good for the country," she said. "But by no means would it resolve the humanitarian problems because the needs and the numbers of people becoming accessible to the relief community would simply increase. It is a question of a very large proportion of territory and people still out of access. They would have to be progressively reached and assisted, as the military situation permitted."
Whatever the political developments on the military front as the government continues a three-month offensive against the rebels, she said in coming months the humanitarian community faced a juxtaposition of emergency, capacity building, development and post-conflict programmes which would have to be implemented.
In other highlights of assistance provided in 1999, UCAH's Rapid Emergency Fund allocated an estimated US $288,177 dollars to support 50 projects managed by various relief agencies, while in April and May this year, 934,000 Angolan children were vaccinated against polio. A total of 2.7 million children were vaccinated for other illness on national vaccination days.
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