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Aid Agencies: Angola Humanitarian Operations in Financial Crisis - 2004-08-15


International aid agencies say their humanitarian operations in Angola are facing a severe financial crisis. The agencies are warning that tepid donor response is threatening efforts to create a stable, peaceful society in the country.

The aid agencies say a lack of money is hampering their efforts to return 1.4 million refugees and internally displaced people to the homes they fled during Angola's long civil war. This, they say, is damaging prospects for a lasting peace.

At the beginning of the year, the World Food Program appealed for $253 million to assist Angolan refugees and homeless people to restart their lives over the next two years upon their return home.

But a spokeswoman for the World Food Program, Christiane Berthiaume, says WFP, so far, has received only $45 million.

"It has been so bad that we had to reduce by 50 percent the ration of cereal, and if there is no more contribution, rapid contribution, the situation is going to be so serious that we will not have any cereal at all to distribute in September," she said. "September marks the beginning of what we call the lean season. It is the period just before the crops. It is the period when people have exhausted all their stocks. They have nothing."

Ms. Berthiaume says the United Nations refugee agency and the WFP had hoped to assist an estimated 70,000 Angolan refugees return home from camps in Namibia, Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo this year. But, she says, many of these people are aware of the misery and hardship they are likely to face upon their return and are becoming discouraged.

"There is nothing in the places where they go back," says Ms. Berthiaume. "Many places are mined. There is not a lot of water. There is not a lot of schools, no health centers and, in some places, in many places, electricity is a dream. It does not exist. So if on top of that there is no food aid, people will not want to go back home."

Ms. Berthiaume says she believes the international community is making a big mistake in not supporting the United Nations' repatriation operation. She says it is much better to assist people who go home than to assist them in refugee camps where they remain permanently dependent on international handouts.

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