The Angolan government is working with UNICEF and the World Health Organisation (WHO) on a programme designed to greatly cut the country's horrific child mortality rate by routinely immunising children against killer diseases.
The goal of the programme is to immunise three quarters of Angolan children under the age of one in three quarters of the country by the end of the year.
According to UNICEF's Representative in Angola, Mario Ferrari, "this programme is a clear sign of just how serious the Angolan government and UN agencies are about routine immunisation. A December deadline is a considerable challenge, but right now Angola needs to set and rise to such challenges."
The programme builds upon the success of the month-long national measles vaccination campaign that began on 21 April. That campaign employed 33,000 health workers and used military helicopters, armoured personnel carriers, cargo aeroplanes and four wheel drive vehicles to deliver the campaign to areas with poor access. Cold chains, a series of refrigerators along a route, were established enabling the vaccines to be kept at the right temperature.
This programme was hailed as a huge success, with 7.6 million children being vaccinated against a disease responsible for the death of 10,000 young Angolans every year. Of those who contract measles but live, many are left with permanent afflictions. The UN has estimated that the campaign saved the lives of 70,000 children and reduced medical bills by $17 million.
For the routine immunisation programme, 59 municipalities have been selected for inclusion, with plans for expansion next year.
Angola has one of the worst records for child mortality in the world, with one in four children never reaching the age of five. According to Ferrari, "the launching of this bold plan is an indication of Angolans' resolve to reduce their fearsome child mortality numbers and expand preventative care to populations returning to normal life".
One of the major causes of child deaths in Angola remains malaria, and efforts to fight the disease have been hit by the ineffectiveness of the standard drug chloroquine due to the widespread resistance developed by plasmodium, the parasite that causes malaria.
Internationally, scientists are working on new anti-malarial drugs and vaccines, but for now the most cost-effective action is spraying stagnant water pools and distributing insecticide-treated mosquito nets.
Angola, along with many African countries, has still not met the recommendations of the joint UNICEF-WHO 'Africa Malaria Report 2003' which points out that "the commercial price of nets and insecticide - though falling - still puts this life-saving technology beyond the reach of the poorest income groups of the population." The report states that Angola still imposes import tariffs and VAT on nets, despite a commitment in April 2000 to reduce or waive taxes and tariffs.
A further deadly disease that affects more than 100,000 people in Angola is trypanosomiasis, more commonly known as sleeping sickness. In its latter stages sleeping sickness has horrific symptoms similar to severe mental illness and is ultimately fatal.
The disease was almost entirely wiped out by the end of the 1960s following a regime of active screening of the population at risk, supported by tsetse trapping and spraying of pesticides. However, years of war have disrupted the fight against the disease.
Sleeping sickness is spread by tsetse flies infected with the protozoa. If it is not treated by the time patients have reached the second stage of the illness, where the neurological disturbances show themselves, treatment is very difficult and dangerous. The prevalent form in Angola, trypanosoma brucei gambiense, is a chronic disease taking several years to reach the advanced stage.
Efforts are underway to use nets to capture tsetse flies which bear the disease.
The extent to which Angola in affected by HIV/AIDS is still unknown due to the lack of testing facilities throughout the country. The government has recently estimated that up to one million people out of the twelve million population carry the HIV virus that causes AIDS. However, the United Nation's UNAIDS organisation puts the figure at half a million.
To overcome the lack of knowledge about the spread of the HIV epidemic and its socio-economic impact, the Angolan government is launching a four-year National Programme to Fight AIDS with the help of UNICEF.
There are fears that increased traffic from neighbouring countries due to the end of the war will lead to a rapid increase in the disease. Studies in East Africa suggest that HIV is often spread along roads used by international truckers. Another factor is the return of refugees from neighbouring countries with a much higher HIV infection rate. To combat this threat, all returning refugees are taught about the disease and preventative measures.
UNITA leader undertakes international tour
Isaias Samakuva, leader of Angola's largest opposition party UNITA, has undertaken an international tour that has seen him visit Portugal, Germany, France, the United States and Britain.
During his stay in the United States he met with US Assistant Secretary of State, Walter Kansteiner, who was formerly known as a strong supporter of UNITA. Kansteiner is the administration's senior African policy official and is expected to leave the State Department shortly.
On 3 October, Samakuva met in New York with the Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan.
Whilst in Europe, Samakuva repeated UNITA's call for autonomy for the enclave of Cabinda. Separatist guerrillas in the enclave have recently been virtually defeated by the Angolan army. Both the ruling MPLA and UNITA favour autonomy for Cabinda, but both reject independence, which has for long been the minimum demand of the separatist FLEC movement. However, there have been accusations that during its rebellion, UNITA fought alongside FLEC in northern Angola, suggesting that UNITA is closer to the independence movement.
On 7 October, Isaias Samakuva will be speaking at Chatham House in London at the invitation of the British Angola Forum.
Authorised demonstration in Luanda
On 4 October, the BBC reported that over one thousand people had taken part in the first authorised anti-government demonstration in Luanda since Jonas Savimbi was killed in February 2002.
The demonstration was organised by a coalition of 87 small parties who are calling for an election next year. No date has yet been set for the election, although both the MPLA and UNITA expect it to take place in 2005.
IMF publishes gloomy economic account
The International Monetary Fund on 10 September published a report www.imf.org/external/pubs/cat/longres.cfm?sk=16871.0 which warns that Angola's financial situation is very weak.
The report was written after a visit to the country by an IMF team in the first fortnight of May 2003. The team found that the government's ability to implement its budget in 2002 was hampered by the weak monitoring of revenue flows between oil companies and the Treasury, and the absence of public expenditure management controls.
In this regard, the report calls for tighter financial controls over the state budget and more transparency to reduce corruption. However, the Angolan government was commended by the IMF for its decision to disclose oil-related financial information, audit the operations of Sonangol, and publish the executive summary of the oil diagnostic carried out by the auditors KPMG.
The IMF report warned that, "while a booming oil sector has pushed the growth rate of real GDP to 15 percent in 2002, the share of the non-oil sectors in GDP has declined, and poverty is widespread". 900,000 barrels of oil per day are being produced, with projections that this may reach 2 million barrels per day by 2008. However, the report also reveals that 65 percent of the urban population is living below the poverty line of $1.68 per day, with an estimated one quarter of the urban population living below the extreme poverty line of 75 US cents per day.
The IMF puts this down to "the prolonged civil war and the influx of internally displaced persons into the cities, where job prospects and/or income-earning opportunities are practically non-existent". The report warns that poverty is reportedly far deeper in rural areas, where people have joined the subsistence economy and have become heavily dependent on humanitarian aid.
The IMF expressed concern that almost a third of government spending was spent outside the government's budget and stated that, "about 20 percent of the spending executed outside the regular budgetary framework (some $400 - 500 million) is the discrepancy between government financial inflows and outflows identified by staff".
The report states that external debt service arrears have continued to accumulate in 2002, limiting access to new external financing. Half of the country's foreign debts were in arrears in 2002 and Angola has been negotiating with Portugal and Spain for debt relief.
The Angolan government told the IMF team that the budget for 2003 was a "unified" budget, that included items that were previously outside the budget - notably payments for wages, pensions, and goods and services for the military.
The IMF report comes out against Angola seeking more large commercial foreign loans to finance the state budget, given Angola's limited capacity to repay such debt. It stated that, "it would be important to avoid further borrowing on commercial terms, including loans collateralized by future oil revenues".
Instead, the IMF recommends increasing state revenue and cutting the state budget to reduce the gap between income and expenditure. However, it also calls on the government to spend more on health and education, as well as on developing basic infrastructure such as power, water supply and transport.
The solution to this seemingly contradictory position? The IMF proposes structural reform, which includes liberalisation of the financial sector and privatisation of some state institutions. One example is the IMF's call for a reform of the government's role in the marketing process in the diamond sector. However this example is likely to be controversial as the reforms brought into the diamond sector in January 2000, which gave a monopoly to the half state-owned ASCORP organisation, increased both tax revenues and profits for the state. Despite this, the government has recently taken steps to remove the monopoly enjoyed by ASCORP.
The IMF also calls on the Angolan government to phase out consumer price subsidies.
The IMF report states that the Angolan government is keen to enter into another Staff Monitored Programme with the IMF, which it desperately needs in order to unblock what is effectively an aid boycott by international donors concerned about corruption in Angola.
New loan mooted
The IMF report made clear its objections to Angola gaining commercial loans to cover its budget deficit.
The report was completed just after the Angolan government entered into a loan worth between $1 billion and $1.5 billion with a consortium of bankers including BNP Paribas, Natexis Banco Populare and Subject International Bank.
Now, according to Energy Compass, the state-owned oil company Sonangol, is seeking a $500 million loan from a group led by Nissho Iwai. However, this loan is reportedly for investing in upstream activities, and should therefore be less problematic for IMF as it will improve the economy through investing in an industry with high 'value-added'.
Plans to rebuild Kuito and Huambo
Two cities that suffered perhaps the greatest destruction during the war have unveiled plans for reconstruction.
On 21 September the Governor of Huambo, Paulo Cassoma, launched the 'Huambo: Cement and Paints' programme, which will run for two years at a cost of $1.8 million. The programme aims to rehabilitate 41 buildings and rehabilitate some of the city's infrastructure.
In the neighbouring province of Bie, the city of Kuito is to receive $12 million as part of the special programme of minimum rehabilitation of the city of Kuito (PERMIK). On 3 October, general director of the National Project Elaboration Firm (ENEP), Fernando Malheiros, announced that this money will be spent on rebuilding government buildings, including three schools.
British trade mission
Ten British companies are to visit Angola in October to look at business opportunities in the sectors of water and sanitation, energy, mining, telecommunications, civil construction and the transport.
The delegation will be led by the British Construction Consulting Bureau and the Southern Africa Trade Association. Earlier this year, a trade mission from Britain looked at the petroleum and gas sector.
The water sector is in dire need of improvement. According to a news report carried on 11 September by the Angolan news agency, ANGOP, Luanda's Water Company (EPAL) needs to increase its output by 150,000 cubic metres of water a day. Currently EPAL produces 330,000 cubic metres a day from its three water supplying systems, Kifangomdo I and II, and Quikuxi. Among the problems faced by the water company are the many leaks in the pipes and the difficulties in matching new parts with the old system. EPAL also faces problems recovering costs from consumers.
Meanwhile, in the town of Dundo, Lunda Norte province, the cost of installing a water supply network has been put at $900,000.
It is likely that most towns and cities will require work to improve water and sanitation, and this will provide opportunities to build trade links with Angola.
Repatriation programme continues
The UNHCR repatriation programme, bringing home Angolan refugees from the neighbouring countries of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Zambia and Namibia, is expanding in the run up to the forthcoming rainy season.
By the end of September, 32,000 Angolan refugees had returned to Angola under the voluntary repatriation scheme, with 16,500 returnees from the DRC, 12,000 from Zambia and 3,500 from Namibia.
It is expected that the pace of returns will pick up as new routes are opened. UNHCR announced on 12 September that convoys are now also arriving at Madimba and Buela in Angola's Zaire province. Returnees are also expected in the towns of Calai and Cuangar in the southerly Cuando Cubango province.
Discussions are underway about opening more areas in Luau municipality near the Zambian border following the rehabilitation of a bridge and the completion of a health post and school.
UNHCR is constructing a sixth reception centre for refugees in the town of Maquela do Zombo in Uige province. However, there is a need to improve the road to the DRC before convoys can bring refugees into the reception centre.
The voluntary repatriation process is still a long way from bringing home the planned 75,000 refugees.
UNHCR will only move people from the reception centres to areas which meet minimum requirements including basic safety and security, access to clean water and health and education provision. However, it only has five operating reception centres in Angola, which are not designed for anything other than short periods in transit.
With the rainy season about to begin, many roads will become impassable, and it is also time for planting crops for next season. Under these conditions, many more people have decided to make their way back to Angola under their own steam.
Concern has been raised that around 500 refugees have left Mayukwayukwa camp in Zambia to make their own way back to Angola.
The Zambian National Broadcasting Corporation on 23 September quoted the Western Province Permanent Secretary Simasiku Namakando as blaming the movement on food shortages in the camp.
However, UNHCR spokesman Kelvin Shimo told the UN news agency IRIN that the returnees, "did not do so due to hunger or any other reason, except their desire to return to Angola".
UNHCR responded by beginning its voluntary repatriation programme from Mayukwayukwa on 4 October with 550 refugees leaving in a convoy of 11 buses and eight trucks to Cazombo in Moxico province.
It is predicted that it will take three years to repatriate all the Angolan refugees living in Zambia.
Ex UNITA soldiers resettled
On 23 September, the Angolan government announced that since the closing of the demobilisation camps for former UNITA soldiers it has resettled 377,511 people to their areas of origin, of which over 90,000 were former soldiers with the remaining being family members.
Many of the former soldiers chose locations in Huambo province as their "area of origin", and progress has been reported on resettling them. The Commission for Social and Productive Reintegration of Demobilised and War Displaced People has revealed that 103,689 former UNITA soldiers and their family members have resettled in Huambo province.
According to the figures released, 21,401 former soldiers have been resettled in the districts of Bailundo, Mungo, Tchicala-Tcholoango, Kachiungo, Ekunha, Caala, Longonjo, Ukama, Tchindjendji, Londuimbali and Huambo.
The former soldiers are due to receive a resettlement kit of 50 kilos of maize, 25 kilos of rice, 25 kilos of beans, five litres of cooking oil and dried fish. So far, 14,966 kits have been distributed.
Each demobilised soldier is also due a payment of $100, which has so far been given to 13,036 people in the province. They are also due to receive farming tools and seeds.
Some of the former soldiers have received basic training in agriculture, plumbing and electricity. The five week long courses have so far benefited 279 ex-soldiers living in Bailundo and Caala.
In neighbouring Bie province, a lack of transport has been blamed for the late delivery of demobilisation kits, with 7,500 kits awaiting transport from the warehouse in Kuito to the town of Andulo.
WFP forced to cut back on air transport
On 3 October the World Food Programme announced that, as a result of "critical funding shortages", it is to restrict its air transport services operation.
The WFP provides air transport in Angola to the humanitarian community, but a lack of donations from the international community has resulted in it being forced to cut back its passenger air services to some areas and to charge the full cost for special WFP passenger flights chartered by humanitarian agencies.
As a result of the funding shortfall, the WFP is now only operating short shuttle fights from Luena to Luau and Cazombo, and from Menongue to Lumbala N'Guimbo and Mavinga.
On 12 September, WFP warned that serious delays in international food shipments will lead to a lack of cereals arriving in Lobito in October.
FAO to distribute seeds and tools
The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation announced on 19 September that it is to launch in Angola its largest operation in Africa, to deliver seeds and tools to almost 2 million farmers. The deliveries of agricultural emergency assistance are due to arrive before the start of the rainy season.
The agricultural kits will include maize, beans, vegetable, millet and sorghum seeds, and tools such as hoes and machetes.
About 5,000 tonnes of inputs will be distributed to the most remote and isolated villages, where pockets of extreme vulnerability still exist.
According to Joao Baptista Kussumua, the Minister for Social Welfare, over 3.3 million people returned to their areas of origin between late April and September this year.
FAO also announced that in January it will distribute 50 000 agricultural kits to former UNITA soldiers using funds due to be released by the World Bank.
FAO has received $11.3 million for emergency projects in Angola, with donations received from Italy, Japan, Norway, Sweden, the European Union, UNDP, World Bank, UNHCR and USAID.
The Angola Peace Monitor is produced every month by ACTSA - Action for Southern Africa.
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