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UN: Angola Faces Humanitarian Crisis - 2002-06-18

The United Nations agency that coordinates humanitarian relief says it is concerned about the high rate of malnutrition in Angola. The agency also said it needs about $142 million to aid millions of Angolans now that the country's civil conflict has virtually ended.

The United Nations calls the humanitarian situation in Angola one of the worst in the world.

It says Angola has more internally displaced people than any other country, and it has the second highest mortality rate in the world for children under the age of five. One child dies in Angola every three minutes.

An April cease-fire agreement between government and UNITA rebel effectively ending 27 years of conflict is now permitting humanitarian aid to flow in Angola.

U.N. humanitarian coordinator Ross Mountain, who recently returned from Angola, said more money must be raised to meet the critical needs faced by about three million Angolans.

"The bad news is that there are really people in very dire straits and suffering from very severe malnutrition, particularly in the quartering areas, and for that we need to get peoples' support immediately. The good news is that we can now see the end of the need for supplying humanitarian assistance in one of the longest-running conflicts in Africa," he said.

Mr. Mountain said 12 percent of Angolan children under five face severe malnutrition. The Angolan government has agreed to provide food aid to former UNITA rebels, who have laid down their weapons, and the United Nations provides food to the soldiers' families in the quartering regions - the areas where former UNITA fighters and their families are housed.

The United Nations said roads must be cleared of mines to be able to better reach Angolans.

Christiane Bertiaume of the U.N. World Food Program said the agency still must use airplanes to reach people cut off from any other possible access, and this is driving up costs.

"We have access now to areas where there are no roads, where the bridges have collapsed. So bringing food by plane costs a lot of money, and we don't have enough money to do that," she said.

The World Food Program said the lack of money has forced it to reduce its food rations to individual Angolans so that it can provide at least some help to a greater number of people.