JOHANNESBURG, 27 January (IRIN) - The
World Food Programme (WFP) on Monday said it was concerned over the number
of former UNITA soldiers and their families leaving quartering camps in
The UN food agency said the movement of thousands of people across the country would seriously hamper the delivery of much-needed humanitarian assistance.
WFP confirmed government reports that around 30,600 former soldiers and their families had left the gathering areas of Malongo, Passe, Chimboa and Chingongo in the eastern Benguele province.
While most were transported by the government, others spontaneously travelled to their areas of origin, WFP said.
"One of our main concerns is that thousands of people are moving in different directions. At least when they were in the gathering areas we could access them and provide them with assistance. Now we will have to re-register these people. Also, some of the areas of resettlement are very difficult to reach, so access is another key problem," WFP spokesman Marcelo Spina-Hering, told IRIN.
Following the conclusion of the quartering process in July 2002 there were some 80,000 former UNITA troops and over 300,000 family members in 42 reception centres across the country.
"Because these people are moving they are not able to plant. If they were at least moved before the planting season they could have planted in the areas where they had resettled. If they had stayed just a little longer in the gathering areas they could have at least planted in those gathering areas.
"But to leave in the middle of the planting season means that they are going to be vulnerable until next [April/May 2004] harvest," Spina-Hering said.
The resettlement and reintegration of the former combatants has been a key concern for the authorities. News of the proposed closure of the camps in December raised concerns among aid workers who told IRIN that agencies were not yet ready to move the former rebels and their families to places of origin or resettlement.
But analysts have warned that although the quartering camps were originally meant to be temporary structures, there are fears that they may end up becoming "UNITA enclaves", and thus perpetuate the political polarisation in the country.
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