Angola

Angolan war produces generation of hunger

Format
News and Press Release
Source
Posted
Originally published
Written by Stephanie Kriner, Staff Writer, DisasterRelief.org
The Angolan government still uses a slogan from its days of Marxist revolution - "A Luta Continua" - the struggle continues. Unfortunately for the people of Angola, that ancient battle cry rings piercingly true today. Peace agreements have been reached four times during the country's 40 years of civil war, and four times the violence resumed. An entire generation has grown up in a country so ravaged by war that hundreds die of starvation every day.

The government once again has embarked on an offensive to put a final end to its civil war against rebel forces. But even if peace eventually endures, relief agencies say the humanitarian crisis will take years - and more donor support - to remedy. In Angola and throughout Africa, donor fatigue and a lack of media interest have dried up financial support for relief operations. Aid officials say their appeals for more funding to support desperately-needed feeding programs often go unheeded.

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has appealed for $258 million in aid for Angola, saying the humanitarian crisis remains "alarming" despite government military successes against rebels.

Angola has the second highest mortality rate for children under age 5. Sierra Leone has the highest rate.Thousands of Angolans have fled to neighboring Zambia and Namibia. They stay in wretched shelters, with precious little drinking water, food or space. Another 3 million are trapped without food or adequate shelter inside the war-torn country, unable or too afraid to leave.

The United Nations (UN) has estimated that 200 Angolans die each day because there is not enough water, food and medicine to help everyone in need. Aid agencies have tried to bring relief supplies into the warring country but the threat of ambushes, shelling and landmines have kept them away from those in the most desperate situations.

The Angolan conflict has been classified as the longest and most miserable civil war in Africa. Peace agreements reached in 1974, 1989, 1991 and 1994 all collapsed, laying waste to a country that's rich in natural resources. Most recently, a fragile peace accord signed by both parties in 1994 failed early last year when the fighting resumed.

The violence stretches back to 1966 when the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (Unita) first took up arms against colonial Portugal and two, more established, liberation movements. In 1975, the Portugese pulled out of the country, giving Angola independence. But fighting between liberation movements - fueled by ethnic differences - continued. Each side solicited the support of Cold War patrons, with Cubans helping the Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), the South Africans siding with Unita and the United States supporting the National Front for the Liberation of Angola (FNLA). In 1992, the MPLA took control in a multiparty election, leading to the most recent upsurge in violence.

Skirmishes over the country's rich supplies of oil and diamonds have kept the battles going between Unita and the present government. The government controls the oil and Unita controls the diamonds, which it sells for arms despite a 1993 U.N. embargo.

A vulnerable population is caught in between. The war has made Angola one of the most landmine-infested nations in the world. According to some estimates, 15 million landmines are scattered in fields and roadways, making it dangerous for refugees to flee war zones and seek shelter. Mine explosions have killed or permanently maimed some 90,000 Angolans. "Mined roads and footpaths impede the repatriation of refugees and returnees, and mined farmland precludes agricultural production," the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) recently reported.

Tragically, Angola has more than enough resources to keep its population from starving. It is the second largest oil producer in sub-Saharan Africa, and it has diamonds, natural gas, gold and other minerals. Angola can claim 20 percent of all water resources in Africa and only 11 million of the people. There are rich agricultural lands, but because of the war no one is harvesting them.
Less than 4 percent of arable land is under production, according to the UN. The result has been widespread malnutrition, with Angola holding the second highest mortality rate in the world for children under age 5, according to UNICEF. Renewed warfare has pushed up the global malnutrition rates and caused an "extreme" deterioration in food security, UNICEF reported.

Recent government offenses to end the war have sent more than 20,000 refugees into western Zambia since Jan. 1, 2000, according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The new influx has pushed the number of Angolan refugees in Zambia to nearly 170,000, posing a threat for serious food shortages. Musengo Kayombo of UNHCR told the Panafrican News Agency that only one 4-ton truck with relief maize-meal, cooking oil, beans and salt had been sent to the area, and poor road infrastructure could hamper future deliveries.

Zambian Foreign Minister Keli Walubita said that 10,000 to 15,000 Angolans are stranded at the border, many of them maimed, elderly or blind, and unable to care for themselves. He appealed to the international community to help the UNHCR deal with the crisis. Another 8,000 refugees have fled to Namibia. They have overburdened refugee camps and drained the resources of the two countries that are already struggling to feed their own people.

An International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies report describes the conditions at a camp in Namibia: "The Osire refugee camp was first established in 1992, and the physical and sanitary conditions are poor. Originally established for some 2,000 refugees, the new influx of Angolan refugees has overburdened camp facilities, with a resulting overcrowding of tents, overwhelmed health services and facilities, a lack of sufficient water and inadequate latrine coverage. The threat of an outbreak of disease or epidemics is a considerable concern. The rains which just started add to the already poor health and sanitary conditions."

Most Angolan refugees are women and children. Many refugees have fled Angola fearing reprisals from Unita, which has been accused of forcing young men to join the rebel movement, abducting women and using them as sex slaves, torching the homes of innocent civilians and summary executions. Most recently, refugees reported that Unita troops had killed some 150 civilians in Chicandula, a small vilage in the east of Brie province. Refugees who make it out of the country consider themselves lucky, despite the miserable conditions in the shelters.
Those who don't make it to a border have crowded into the cities where aid agencies try to dole out food to the most needy. But often the airport is shelled, and planes full of grain must turn away. In the past year, 23 relief workers and humanitarian staff have been killed in Angola, according to the UN.

The government has said it is close to taking over key Unita strongholds and forcing a stop to the violence. But even if the war were to end for good, relief organizations say that the country has a long road to recovery. "If there was peace in Angola tomorrow, it would be very good for the country," said Marjolaine Martin, senior humanitarian affairs officer of the U.N. humanitarian assistance coordination unit. "But by no means would it resolve the humanitarian problems because the needs and numbers of people becoming accessible to the relief community would simply increase."

A Luta Continua.

DisasterRelief.org is a unique partnership between the American Red Cross, IBM and CNN dedicated to providing information about disasters and their relief operations worldwide. The three-year-old website is a leading disaster news source and also serves as a conduit for those wishing to donate to disaster relief operations around the globe through the international Red Cross movement.

All American Red Cross disaster assistance is free, made possible by voluntary donations of time and money from the American people. To help the victims of disaster, you may make a secure online credit card donation or call 1-800-HELP NOW (1-800-435-7669) or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish). Or you may send your donation to your local Red Cross or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, D.C. 20013.

The American Red Cross is dedicated to helping make families and communities safer at home and around the world. The Red Cross is a volunteer-led humanitarian organization that annually provides almost half the nation's blood supply, trains nearly 12 million people in vital life-saving skills, mobilizes relief to victims in more than 60,000 disasters nationwide, provides direct health services to 2.5 million people, assists international disaster and conflict victims in more than 20 countries, and transmits more than 1.4 million emergency messages to members of the Armed Forces and their families. If you would like information on Red Cross services and programs please contact your local Red Cross.

=A9 Copyright 1999, The American National Red Cross. All Rights Reserved.

DisasterRelief
DisasterRelief.org is a unique partnership between the American Red Cross, IBM and CNN dedicated to providing information about disasters and their relief operations worldwide. The three-year-old website is a leading disaster news source and also serves as a conduit for those wishing to donate to disaster relief operations around the globe through the international Red Cross movement. American Red Cross disaster assistance is free, made possible by voluntary donations of time and money from the American people. To help the victims of disaster, you may make a secure online credit card donation or call 1-800-HELP NOW (1-800-435-7669) or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish). Or you may send your donation to your local Red Cross or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, D.C. 20013. The American Red Cross is dedicated to helping make families and communities safer at home and around the world. The Red Cross is a volunteer-led humanitarian organization that annually provides almost half the nation's blood supply, trains nearly 12 million people in vital life-saving skills, mobilizes relief to victims in more than 60,000 disasters nationwide, provides direct health services to 2.5 million people, assists international disaster and conflict victims in more than 20 countries, and transmits more than 1.4 million emergency messages to members of the Armed Forces and their families. If you would like information on Red Cross services and programs please contact your local Red Cross. © Copyright, The American National Red Cross. All Rights Reserved.