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UNICEF Sends Emergency Help to Angola - 2002-08-18

The United Nations Children's Fund, UNICEF, has sent hundreds of emergency health kits to Angola. The kits, expected to arrive Sunday, are designed to meet the basic health needs of millions of people.

UNICEF says the 300 emergency health kits will help three million people in Angola. UNICEF spokeswoman Wivina Belmonte says the shipment is part of the agency's emergency assistance to Angola. She says UNICEF already has shipped $3 million worth of supplies to Angola and more are on the way.

"They are basic supplies, but they are certainly life-saving supplies," Ms. Belmonte said. "Something as basic as this when you take it into a quartering area, for example, where we now have access to one million people that we could not reach before, means that they do get basic health care in a place where they have not been able to up until now."

Many areas of the country were off limits to international aid agencies while the civil war was raging. This changed when the Angolan government and UNITA rebels declared a cease-fire in March.

Ms. Belmonte says each health kit covers the basic health needs for 10,000 people for three months at a cost of about 50 cents a person.

"The kind of drugs and things that are in these kits are basic drugs," she said. "Anti-inflammatory, antacids, disinfectants, oral re-hydration salts, basic antibiotics and ointments for eye infections. And the medicines are used to treat symptoms of the most common illnesses facing young children. Things like anemia, diarrhea, fever, respiratory tract infections."

Angola is a country with huge oil and mineral resources, but it also has one of the highest infant and maternal mortality rates in the world. Several decades of war have left millions homeless and turned millions of others into refugees.

A recent fact finding mission by an international aid agency found many people suffering from severe malnutrition. It described living conditions as very poor and said people were falling ill because of unsafe drinking water and inadequate health services.