Angola's 27-year long war, which ended in April 2002, has left the country's transport infrastructure in a terrible state, and landmine infestation has been a serious impediment to aid workers.
In its latest situation report, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) announced that it had received a Swedish donation of US $2 million for a project to build bridges so it can reach people in need.
WFP spokesman in Angola, Marcelo Spina-Herring, told IRIN that the bridge project was "a very, very important initiative" and a boost for emergency operations in remote parts of the country.
Spina-Hering said accessing needy populations was difficult "partly because of the condition of bridges, which are either really damaged or sometimes non-existent".
"This initiative will provide support for the emergency operation in terms of giving access to about 350,000 people that could benefit directly from this access. So it is really a great thing," he said.
However, Spina-Hering stressed that "these will be emergency constructions of temporary bridges, we are not replacing the government in terms of rebuilding the country's infrastructure".
It was envisaged that the project would begin in the next few weeks and between 12 and 15 Bailey bridges would be built. Bailey bridges are "sort of military bridges which can be assembled and disassembled in quite a fast manner", said Spina-Hering.
"When we say that about 350,000 people could directly benefit, we are including a lot of refugees who will be coming back from neighbouring countries into regions like Moxico and Kuando Kubango provinces [which border Zambia and Namibia]. A lot of the people set to benefit are returning refugees," Spina-Hering noted.
In a related development, WFP was able to complete a rapid food needs assessment and register beneficiaries in Tchicala-Tcholohanga municipality in Huambo province. The agency used mine clearance NGO Halo Trust's armoured vehicles to access the municipality and confirm food insecurity in Upunda, a major area of return for internally displaced persons, which had been inaccessible to UN personnel due to landmines.
"Returnees have not been able to cope without assistance, and disease and hunger has reportedly claimed over 50 lives this year," the WFP update said.
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