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WFP Running Out of Cash for Angolan Humanitarian Operations

The World Food Program warns it will have to stop feeding more than 700,000 Angolans in September if it does not receive new cash donations by the end of this month. The U.N. agency says it needs $12.6 million to continue its humanitarian operations until the end of the year.

WFP Spokeswoman Christiane Berthiaume says the situation is so bad that for the past year, the agency has been forced to cut rations in half for tens of thousands of refugees who had returned to Angola after many years in exile.

She says the World Food Program does not know how it will support another 80,000 refugees who are expected to return in the coming months from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zambia.

"They are coming back home with nothing. They were living in camps. They never were able to get some belongings. They have nothing," said Berthiaume. "So, they really need the food and this is our responsibility to give them the food until the next harvest at least for them to be able settle down."

The next harvest is not until April and May 2007. Berthiaume says there is enough food to continue feeding the hungry through August. But the WFP's humanitarian operation will shut down in September if money is not received in the next two weeks.

"700,000 Angolans are really in dire need of help. And, WFP conducted a study late last year in some of the rural areas of southern and eastern Angola. And, this study showed that more than 900,000 people still do not get enough food. And, that at least 45 percent of children under the age of five are chronically malnourished. They are suffering from stunting," continued Berthiaume.

Berthiaume says children are the most vulnerable and the ones who suffer the most. She notes chronic malnutrition can cause irreversible learning problems.

Angola's 30-year-long civil war shattered most of the country's infrastructure and social services. Berthiaume says Angola is rich in natural resources and one day it will have the money to take care of its own people.

But until then, she says the government will continue to require international support for reconstruction and for basic assistance to hundreds of thousands of its citizens.