Senior Inter-Agency Network on Internal Displacement - Mission to Angola 12-17 March 2001: Findings and Recommendations

Originally published
The Senior Inter-Agency Network on Internal Displacement, led by the UN Special Coordinator on Internal Displacement, together with representatives of FAO, the Office of the Representative of the Secretary-General on Internally Displaced Persons (RSG on IDPs), UNHCR, UNICEF, WFP and the NGO community, undertook a mission to Angola from 12 to 17 March 2001. The main objectives of the Mission were to: assess the nature and magnitude of the assistance and protection needs of internally displaced persons, particularly with regard to displaced women and children; to review the operational capacity of UN agencies and other humanitarian actors on the ground to respond to such needs, with a view to identifying any gaps in the humanitarian response; to review existing institutional arrangements within and between the UN agencies, the Red Cross Movement, NGOs and the Government, and to make recommendations to concerned agencies, organisations and the Government for future action. The Mission also set out to assess the extent of implementation of the recommendations stemming from the visit to Angola of the RSG on IDPs in November 2000.

The Mission met with Government officials as well as representatives of United Nations, the Red Cross Movement, other international organizations, civil society and non-governmental organisations, and members of the diplomatic community. The delegation travelled to the Provinces of Bié and Huambo and visited Viana in Luanda.

Overview of the situation

Angola's civil war continues, characterised by guerrilla warfare with catastrophic consequences for the civilian population. According to Government figures there are 3.8 million IDPs in Angola today. Significant displacement continues: in the province of Bié alone over 50.000 people have been displaced in the last four months. All interlocutors confirmed that displacement is likely to continue in the foreseeable future. In addition, over 400.000 Angolans have sought refuge outside the country. IDPs are only part of the broader humanitarian crisis: some 25% of the population currently receives humanitarian assistance. During 2000, 1.3 million people, including approximately 700,000 displaced, relied on international food aid. Agencies estimate that 50% of displaced populations do not have access to adequate agricultural land while less than 30% of the population have access to basic health services.

According to UNICEF, Angola has the second highest mortality of children under five in the world: nearly one out of every three children dies before the age of five. Less than half of all children attend school, often on a limited basis.

Humanitarian operations are severely constrained by the lack of access and security. There have been 157 attacks reported on towns this year alone. Thirteen out of 18 provinces are under UN security phase IV, and more than 60% of all humanitarian aid is transported by air due to insecurity and logistical problems.

Protection of IDPs continues to pose a major challenge. There are numerous allegations of human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law by armed actors, including forced relocation, targeting of civilians in the conflict, use of civilians as human shields, forced conscription, looting and sexual violence.

The virtual absence of a functioning justice system -with only a reported 8 out of 157 municipal courts functioning- promotes a climate of almost total impunity for the violation of the rights of IDPs and the population generally.


The Mission recognised the efforts of the Humanitarian Coordinator/Resident Coordinator (HC/RC) a.i. and the OCHA unit, to ensure the coordination of humanitarian activities on behalf of displaced populations, including in particular at the provincial level, through the system of field advisers.

Notable progress in collaboration between the UN system and governmental structures was noted, which has led to concrete results such as the development of minimum operational standards for the resettlement of displaced populations (MINOPS), which have been incorporated into national law as the Norms on Resettlement. However, there remains a need to further strengthen such collaboration, particularly with a view to building the capacity of governmental and local institutions responsible for humanitarian assistance and protection.

The Mission noted that, while the displaced have quite specific needs, it was also important to recognise the grave problems facing host and resident populations in the humanitarian response. Efforts have been made to promote the use of vulnerability analysis to address the needs of vulnerable people in a more coherent and coordinated manner.


  • HC/RC and all UN agencies to strengthen efforts to support the capacity of the Government of Angola (GoA) to assume active leadership in the coordination of humanitarian affairs.

  • UN agencies and international NGOs to collaborate more closely with national NGOs, including through capacity building activities.

  • Humanitarian agencies to continue efforts to respond on the basis of objective criteria of vulnerability and ensure a community-based approach in addressing the specific protection and assistance needs of IDPs.
Government Responsibility and Accountability

While recognising the efforts undertaken by the GoA to address the needs of the displaced, it is clear that more could be done. Donors are increasingly reluctant to support humanitarian assistance without greater commitment on the part of the GoA. At the same time the Mission recognised the need to strengthen the capacity of governmental institutions to deal with the issue of displacement.

The GoA has undertaken a process of decentralisation of responsibilities to the provinces. This, however, has not been accompanied by devolution of necessary resources. The GoA is currently in the process of elaborating its Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP). Addressing the issue of internal displacement is a key condition for poverty reduction. Accordingly, there is a need for greater integration of humanitarian priorities, such as the delivery of basic services and the strengthening of the justice system, within the PRSP.


  • GoA to assume greater responsibility in addressing the needs of displaced including through the allocation of additional resources, particularly to the provinces, and increasing accountability for implementation. International support for the needs of the displaced should complement but not substitute for national efforts. GoA also to provide assistance to vulnerable populations not accessible to international actors. The provision of assistance should be undertaken with the full participation of and in consultation with the displaced populations;

  • GoA to clarify how the Fund for Peace and National Reconciliation will complement already existing programmes for displaced populations;

  • GoA to ensure that the PRSP includes activities to strengthen the delivery of basic services such as health, education and sanitation, as well as the strengthening of the rule of law. International financial institutions to support this approach.
Access, security and humanitarian dialogue

There is very limited safe access beyond the provincial capitals due to insecurity, the presence of landmines and the poor condition of infrastructure, such as roads and bridges. As a result over 60% of humanitarian assistance is still transported by air. In addition, hundreds of thousands of people remain inaccessible to agencies and little is known about their real condition.

It is also of primary concern to the humanitarian organisations, that all necessary measures be taken by the GoA so as to ensure security and safety of humanitarian personnel and the delivery of humanitarian assistance. The Mission noted the deployment of UN Security Field Officers to a number of provinces. Angola is one of the very few countries where the humanitarian agencies have no contact with insurgent forces for purposes of humanitarian dialogue.


  • GoA to assist humanitarian operations through the development and maintenance of necessary infrastructure with a view at enhancing access, transport and delivery capacity;

  • GoA to enhance its capacity to ensure safety and security of humanitarian personnel and the delivery of humanitarian assistance;

  • The UN to ensure the timely deployment of Field Security Officers to remaining provinces where appropriate, with the support of relevant Government ministries, to improve UN capacity to monitor security and access possibilities;

  • GoA to support the need for humanitarian dialogue with all armed actors, including by humanitarian agencies and NGO coalitions.

  • GoA to seek to provide minimum conditions necessary to facilitate humanitarian access for needs assessments, provision of humanitarian assistance, protection and vaccination campaigns, especially for polio eradication, including through the promotion of humanitarian corridors.

The Mission recognised that, notwithstanding the efforts of the ICRC and other actors, many protection needs of the displaced go largely unaddressed. Primary responsibility for protecting displaced civilians rests with the GoA, including through the respect of human rights and international humanitarian law. A step forward in this regard has been the promulgation of Norms on the Resettlement of displaced populations, based on the Guiding Principles, as well as the development of provincial protection plans, also based on the Guiding Principles. The GoA, in collaboration with the UN and other humanitarian agencies, is currently overseeing the elaboration of operating procedures for these Norms.

The Mission noted that, while both GoA and agencies have made some progress in implementing the recommendations stemming from the visit of the RSG on IDPs, a more focused and active approach to protection is required by the Government including with regard to the prevention of arbitrary displacement. The lack of capacity and commitment on the part of the GoA to ensure the protection of IDPs is also reflected in and compounded by the weakness of the justice system and the rule of law.

The Mission noted the attention given to and the progress made by the international humanitarian community in the development of a comprehensive protection strategy, based on the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement. As an exceptional and immediate measure, the HC/RC will designate a focal point in each province for protection monitoring and, as appropriate, intervention at the provincial level. An inter agency group will determine appropriate advocacy at the national level. As part of an integrated strategy, the Human Rights Division of the UN Office in Angola (HRD/UNOA) envisages expanding its presence and activities in the areas of advocacy, capacity building and community empowerment at the provincial level and should be supported to do so.


  • GoA to ensure, with the support of the international community, the protection of IDPs, including through the establishment of Human Rights Committees, with the support of UN agencies, at provincial level and the implementation of provincial protection plans;

  • GoA to respect the rules of international humanitarian law which protect civilians in armed conflict and in particular those prohibiting forced movement of civilians;

  • GoA to ensure the accountability of perpetrators of abuses and violations, including through the strengthening of the justice system and the rule of law;

  • GoA to implement the recommendations stemming from the mission of the RSG on IDPs, in particular those aimed at helping prevent arbitrary displacement, such as training for military and police personnel and ensuring the timely receipt of salaries and supplies by military personnel;

  • The UN Country Team, under the leadership of the HC/RC supported by OCHA, to ensure timely implementation of its protection strategy, with the support of national and international NGOs;

  • The HC/RC to promote training of all humanitarian workers on standards and principles for the protection of IDPs, in particular as contained in the Guiding Principles;

  • HRD/UNOA to urgently pursue the implementation of its plan to strengthen its presence and activities at provincial level on the basis of a clear program strategy and protection mandate;

  • UNHCR to undertake protection monitoring and information collection with Angolan refugee populations to better understand the causes and consequences of displacement;

  • UNICEF to continue supporting child protection networks -including NGOs and civil society groups- at provincial level to address specific child protection needs and rights, including demobilisation of child soldiers and reunification of separated and unaccompanied children;

  • Donors to ensure adequate support to overall protection activities proposed by OCHA and HRD/UNOA, as well as to the GoA for reinforcement of the justice system.

Temporary resettlement of displaced populations is being pursued as a viable alternative to transit centres or camps. Minimum standards, which have been incorporated into national law, have been elaborated for such resettlement. The Mission supported the resettlement programme provided all conditions set out in the Norms on Resettlement are fulfilled, including in particular the security of the location, the voluntary nature of the relocation, access to basic services and availability of agricultural land.

The Mission saw encouraging examples of resettlement of IDP communities being developed through joint efforts by Government provincial and municipal authorities, UN agencies, NGOs and IDP communities. However, the Mission was also informed of less successful cases of resettlement, mainly due to a lack of effective collaboration by the Government authorities with humanitarian agencies. In areas visited by the Mission, housing and schooling facilities were built through Food for Work activities and with NGO support.

In some cases resettled IDPs have already engaged in agricultural activity that will promote their self-sufficiency. Humanitarian and rehabilitation assistance should aim at diversifying income-generating opportunities for the resettling populations, to facilitate a smooth phasing out of relief.


  • GoA to ensure full implementation of the Norms on Resettlement, including through early issuance of its regulating procedure, ensuring security of sites, availability of arable land and provision of basic services.

  • GoA to ensure, in collaboration with humanitarian partners, improved advance planning for resettlement processes. Efforts must be continued to ensure that health assistance, sanitation and other complementary inputs are provided to the new settlements;

  • Humanitarian actors to promote income-generating activities for resettled populations to strengthen coping mechanisms and sustainability. IDP resettlement sites should be located to facilitate links to markets and trade opportunities. Attention should be given to the requirements of host communities as well as to environmental aspects.

  • Donors to provide support for the resettlement process and ensuing emergency recovery assistance aimed at promoting self-reliance.

Information on numbers of displaced is usually provided by the local administration and confirmed, on the basis of assessments and registrations, by NGOs and UN agencies. There is a lack of capacity within the humanitarian community to undertake the registration and monitoring of the displaced caseload, however, leading to a lack of consensus on the magnitude of the problem and delays in the provision of assistance. Agencies have recognised the need to improve registration procedures, including through the development of a standardised registration procedure, with a view to minimising the period between the registration, verification and distribution of assistance. In collaboration with GoA authorities and partner NGOs, WFP is implementing a new registration mechanism with a view to enhancing and strengthening its targeting strategy and capacity. IOM is planning to develop in collaboration with the authorities standardised registration procedures for all populations displaced since 1998. Many IDPs currently lack legal proof of identity which makes them more vulnerable to abuse and unable to exercise their basic human rights.


  • All concerned humanitarian agencies should ensure early implementation of initiatives to strengthen compatible registration systems;

  • Relevant agencies to seek to obtain qualitative information on the displaced population, including in particular on gender issues, in the framework of registration procedures;

  • GoA be encouraged to undertake urgent national registration and documentation of the population, including IDPs;

  • GoA to ensure birth registration and the issuance of birth certificates for all children.

Women constitute the majority of those displaced, and are, in many cases, heads of household. In 2001, food assistance will focus on narrowing the gender disparity that exists in the country through the strengthening of mechanisms for participation by women. Seventy per cent of WFP's food aid beneficiaries in Angola in 2001 are expected to be women and children. According to a UN survey, one third of displaced women have suffered physical and often domestic violence.


  • The HC/RC and the UNCT to further ensure the active integration of gender sensitive assessment and programming in all agency activities.

  • GoA and relevant agencies, including UNICEF and UNFPA, to develop programmes and initiatives -including in the area of prevention, education and protection- to address the issue violence against women.
Food aid

Humanitarian food aid assistance continues to be provided by WFP to a population of some 1 million IDPs and other vulnerable groups in Angola every month, in addition to ICRC's caseload. In line with the emerging opportunities for the gradual resettlement and rehabilitation of IDPs, WFP and partner NGOs, in consultation with Government authorities, have developed a new food assistance strategy aiming at supporting rehabilitation activities for IDPs in transitional situations, while maintaining capacity and flexibility for relief food distributions for the recently displaced.


  • WFP, in cooperation with NGO partners, to ensure a flexible approach to food distribution as well as a monitoring capacity in order to be able to continue to respond to emergency needs as they arise.

The issue of secure land tenure is of critical importance for both the displaced populations and the resident communities. The Mission was informed of the on-going revision of the land law. This should take into

consideration the requirements of the recently approved Norms on Resettlement, including the formal recognition of historical tenure rights by the resident communities and the allocation of sufficient and good quality land to IDPs.

Rehabilitation interventions, developing economic opportunities to facilitate the integration of the IDPs into the existing neighbouring resident communities, should also be identified and supported. The Mission also noted the need to strengthen sectoral coordination with regard to agriculture.

Resettlement initiatives may contribute to environmental damage. In particular the mission noticed extensive damages to forests near to resettlement sites, usually due to charcoal production.


  • GoA to include all relevant ministries in the elaboration of a revised land law and ensure broad consultations on the law, including with civil society, international and national humanitarian actors. Security of land tenure for resettled IDPs should be ensured. To avoid conflict, this land allocation must be the result of a negotiation between the resident community and the IDPs;

  • GoA and relevant agencies to provide IDPs and neighbouring resident communities with essential agricultural support, including technical advice, adapted seeds and tools and, when deemed necessary, fertilizer;

  • Lead technical UN agencies to facilitate coordination, information exchange and provide training on agricultural support activities to national and international NGOs and local authorities at both central and provincial levels;

Given the scale of population movements, ensuring access to even basic health care facilities is very difficult. Health and nutritional indicators in Angola are amongst the worst in the world. It is probable that the figures for IDPs are even worse than the average, given their generally precarious situation. Malaria, TB, acute respiratory infections, diarrhoeal diseases and vaccine-preventable diseases are amongst the greatest health problems affecting IDPs. Insecurity, poor access and inadequate resources all contribute to low standards of health care including low vaccination rates, shortages of essential drugs, poorly trained and under-paid staff.


  • Ministry of Health, with support of humanitarian agencies, including in particular WHO and donors, to strengthen the national health network, also for IDPs, as the most effective strategy for improving health care for displaced populations.

  • Ministry of Health and relevant agencies to improve vaccination coverage through improved logistics, continued training of staff, improved supervision and, increased resource allocation. Imaginative measures to be pursued to reach children currently inaccessible to health services, particularly in light of the campaign for the global eradication of polio;

  • Ministry of Health and relevant agencies to give priority to the provision of reproductive health for displaced women, including family planning, timely treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, pre-natal care and emergency obstetric interventions;

  • Donors to support efforts of agencies, including UNICEF, UNFPA and WHO, in this sector.

Official figures estimate the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the population to be 3.5% but agencies believe this is likely to be an under-estimation. Given the ongoing conflict, reports of sexual violence against women, the weakness of the health and education infrastructures, displacement and family breakdown, the likelihood of a major increase in the prevalence of HIV, particularly amongst the displaced population, must be expected.


  • UN agencies to continue to support the national programme against HIV/AIDS;

  • Donors encouraged to support ongoing efforts by UNAIDS, UNICEF, UNFPA and others concerned agencies to promote youth-focused and participatory prevention strategies including peer counselling education;

  • Ministries of Health and Defense to continue collaboration to promote HIV/AIDS education and free distribution of condoms to the military;

  • All allegations of sexual violence against women to be investigated and perpetrators held accountable by the authorities, to provide maximum deterrence.

Thirty years of conflict have practically destroyed the education system. Most children do not attend school and only 35% of children reach fifth grade. The education system suffers from a major lack of resources including classrooms, trained teachers and educational materials. Funding as well as implementation remains a critical gap, despite the increasing recognition globally that education is a critical and essential component of humanitarian assistance as well as development.


  • GoA to intensify efforts to provide birth certificates to all children, since children are not accepted into secondary education (from 10 years) without ID documentation:

  • The Ministry of Education, with the support of UNICEF, to actively increase its leadership and capacity in implementing education programmes;

  • Donors to support efforts of agencies in this sector (UNICEF has thus far received only $400,000 out of $2.7 million requested in the 2001 CAP for education).
Non-Food Items/Shelter

The provision of non-food items to IDPs, including materials for construction of shelter, was noted to be a concern, with lack of clarity in coordination of this area. It was noted that the Ministry of Social Assistance and Reintegration, which is responsible for assistance to IDPs, has not always been able to provide shelter to those in transit centres and camps.


  • HC/RC to enhance coordination for non-food items, by considering the possibility of designating an agency to take the lead in sectoral coordination;

  • MINARS to enhance its response to urgent shelter needs of the displaced, in collaboration with concerned agencies.

There are an exceptionally high number of mines and UXOs in Angola from many years of conflict. There were a reported 900 victims of mine-related incidents in 2000: in Kuito alone 70 children have reportedly fallen victims of landmines since December 2000. The presence of mines also represents a major obstacle to the identification of safe resettlement areas and humanitarian access. Notwithstanding the on-going programmes of various agencies, particularly UNDP and UNICEF as well as NGOs, mine action remains inadequate in relation to needs. There is currently little international donor support for de-mining programmes due to lack of recognised national capacity to address the problem as well as the re-mining being undertaken by both sides to the conflict.


  • GoA to create urgently a national strategy and effective mechanisms for mine action;

  • UNMAS to provide support and technical advice to an appropriate mine action programme in Angola;

  • GoA to ratify and ensure implementation of the Ottawa Mine Ban Convention;

  • GoA to ensure implementation of measures outlined in the Norms on Resettlement to guarantee that resettlement areas are mine free;

  • The HC/RC, in collaboration with the UNCT, to allocate responsibility for coordination of mine action within the UN System, taking into account on-going NGO activities in this sector;

  • Donors to actively support activities to be implemented under the reviewed national strategy for mine action and to give priority to humanitarian de-mining activities.
Donors' Support and Funding

The Mission noted with concern that the current levels international of funding provide a very fragile basis for humanitarian programmes. The CAP 2000 for Angola had a shortfall of nearly 50%. Projects addressing nutrition, health, water and sanitation, education and protection were the most under funded, with an estimated 60% of requirements going unmet. The Mission noted that some donors were increasingly looking at transitional interventions. However, humanitarian needs on the ground remain critical and widespread.


  • Donors to provide necessary support for humanitarian activities as outlined in the CAP 2001 and NGO proposals, ensuring an integrated and balanced approach to the needs of IDPs. Such support should encompass coordination, protection, health, educations, mine action and emergency food aid.

  • Donors to ensure adequate funding for all emergency initiatives, while supporting complementary longer term transitional initiatives promoting self sufficiency.