FAO/GIEWS Special Alert No. 288: Angola (18 December 1998)

(Circulated only for countries where foodcrops or supply situation conditions give rise to concern)
Intensifying violence in Angola threatens the food security of people living in several parts of the country. Despite the initiation of a peace process after the signing of the Lusaka accord in November 1994, reports of random attacks, kidnappings, and killings have been received from various parts of the country. The situation has worsened since March 1998 with renewed military operations in several provinces, particularly in the north-east, the north, the south and the south-west, as well as in the central agricultural highlands. This would seriously undermine the food security situation in the country as distribution of relief assistance and agricultural inputs would be hampered and areas planted would be reduced. There are also reports of a spate of mine laying in recent months.

Increased insecurity has restricted the use of several roads around the country, including some strategically important main roads between the ports of Lobito/Benguela and Luanda and cities in the central areas such as Huambo and Bie. About half the country is now considered inaccessible. Travelling outside urban areas has been restricted and most humanitarian agencies have withdrawn staff from many rural areas. This will aggravate the difficulties of delivering food to needy people. It will also leave major agricultural provinces of the central highlands and elsewhere with little access to agricultural inputs (seeds, tools, etc) and technical assistance during the current cropping season. The most insecure areas now appear to be the central region where heavy military activity has been reported in recent weeks. Area planted to crops may be affected in this region, which normally accounts for over half of the country's cereal and bean production and about one third of cassava output. Consequently, the early outlook for this year's crop is unfavourable.

This year's rainy season started on schedule with normal rainfall in main production areas. However, the potential benefits of these rains will be compromised by reduced plantings and yields in most areas. This will lead to a larger shortfall and greater reliance on food assistance in the year ahead.

The food supply situation remains precarious in southern areas due to last year's poor harvest while increasing food supply problems are emerging in central and southern provinces due to recent escalation of hostilities. The number of internally displaced has risen sharply this year with over 300 000 newly displaced persons in some ten provinces, particularly in Huila, Malange, Huambo and Bie. The population displacements, looting of food and livestock in villages and on roads have taken a heavy toll on local food supplies and the economy. This is resulting in food supply difficulties, an increase in the number of cases of malnutrition, particularly for women and children, and increased prevalence of diseases, such as malaria and cholera.

An increasing number of Angolans are reported to be crossing the borders to Namibia and Zambia to escape the fighting. These countries, which both suffered from last year's reduced cereal harvests due to El Niño related adverse weather, will find it difficult to cope with a large influx of refugees. The Democratic Republic of Congo, which shares a long border with Angola and has been struggling with its own internal conflict, is also likely to be affected by the population displacement. In view of the highly uncertain situation in Angola and its implications for neighbouring countries, it is essential that the international community and the concernedgovernments put in place contingency plans to cope with an increasingly likely crisis.

This report is prepared on the responsibility of the FAO Secretariat with information from official and unofficial sources. Since conditions may change rapidly, please contact:

Mr. Abdur Rashid
Chief, ESCG, FAO
Telex: 610181 FAO I
Fax: 0039-06-5705-4495
E-Mail (INTERNET): GIEWS1@FAO.ORG) for further information if required.