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Red Cross:  Angola Facing Severe Malnutrition, HIV/AIDS 'Explosion' - 2002-08-09

The International Red Cross says it is stepping up emergency assistance for millions of people in Angola who are suffering from severe malnutrition and HIV/AIDS. Aid agencies say the people of Angola are in desperate straits after decades of civil war, which left millions of people homeless.

Since peace was declared, aid agencies have been able to reach parts of the country, which previously were off-limits to humanitarian organizations. They call the needs in the country overwhelming.

The president of the Sierra Leone Red Cross, Muctaru Jalloh, led a three-week mission to Angola. He told reporters in Geneva that wherever the team went, it saw severe cases of malnutrition.

"And you see children and adults scavenging in dustbins looking for food, which is an indication that there definitely is lack of food," he said. "The living conditions generally are poor [with] no access to clean water. There are inadequate health services. HIV/AIDS officially as we discussed with UNAIDS people in Angola, is only waiting to explode if action is not taken now."

Landmines also are a problem; Angola is one of the most heavily mined countries in the world. Mr. Jalloh says he met farmers who said they could not plant their fields because of the fear of landmines.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is appealing for $24 million (US) to support the Angolan Red Cross until the end of the year.

The money will be used to rebuild some of the facilities destroyed during the war, to provide clean water, improve sanitation, and run HIV/AIDS prevention programs.

The International Committee of the Red Cross also is appealing for additional money. Its focus will be to trace missing people, provide food and non-food assistance to the hungry, and support primary health care facilities. It also plans to step up mine-awareness programs and produce artificial limbs for landmine victims.