Paradise lost: A struggle for survival in Angola's high plateau

At first glance, Cangolo village looks like a paradise. A steady flow of water meanders along a canal network through the well-spaced family hamlets that are home to 199 Angolans. Thick green foliage provides ample shade and an array of fruits and vegetables. But behind this idyllic scenery is a harsh reality. After 28 years of civil war that brought death and utter isolation to this community in the northern corner of Huambo Province nestled in Angola's high plateau, residents here face a daily struggle for survival against disease and hunger.
Joaquina Kunjikissa's face reflects that struggle. Flanked by six-year old son Emaculado and three-year old Joao, with 15-month old Rodrina sitting passively in her lap, Joaquina knows she is in a desperate situation. Two of her seven children have already died and Rodrina may well be poverty's next victim. Face deformed from birth, she struggles to access the nutrients contained in her mother's breast. A rapid field analysis (MUAC) shows the child to be malnourished and 'at risk.' "It is not easy to have children here," says Joaquina. "There is a lack of food, clothes and seeds. We are surviving on bananas now and the upcoming harvest will only last a few months. I don't know what we will do then."

"Angola is at a historic crossroads," according to Operations Director Jonathan White. "World Vision intends to be a key player in its historic transformation from being a Category III Emergency to a country in rapid development? But right now, the focus is on saving lives." "Before the war got bad, there was plenty of crops and no big problems with sicknesses," remembers the 29-year old Joaqina, who was born just meters away from where the World Vision Assessment team found her in February 2003. "Now we have to fight for food with the rats and monkeys. All we eat are bananas and more bananas."

While the peace has brought an end to battle deaths and civilian casualties, Angola remains as perilous as ever. Poverty exacerbated by population movements (over 3 million IDPs reported by UNOCHA since 1998, many of whom are returning to their war-destroyed homes with no productive assets or means of support) and land mines (Angola has the highest presence of mines per capita in the world, with estimates ranging in the millions) continue to claim lives.

Angola has the world's second highest infant mortality rate, with one child dying every three minutes. Three out of ten children die before reaching their first birthday.

Huambo is arguably the countries most vulnerable province. In January 2003, it registered the highest global malnutrition levels in the country. Landmines (conservatively estimated at 20,000 on roads) and horrible road conditions have cut a majority of Huambo's most vulnerable people off from outside assistance. Of the estimated 650,000 in need of food assistance, 250,000 are inaccessible and an additional 100,000 are not receiving assistance because of lack of humanitarian funding.

In response, World Vision Angola is launching a major appeal for funding to be used towards emergency food interventions and health care provision in Northern Huambo.