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US Congress Hears Testimony On Lack of Funds for Angola's Recovery - 2002-10-16

Challenges facing the Angolan government and its people in recovering from decades of war were the subject of a hearing Wednesday on Capitol Hill. A humanitarian aid organization says Angola needs more food and other assistance from the international community.

Doctors Without Borders, which has been working in most of Angola's 18 provinces, says the condition of at least two million people remains precarious due to underfunding of World Food Program efforts.

While acute emergencies have eased in most parts of the country, severe malnutrition continues in other areas such as Mavinga and Bailundo in the southeast.

Morten Rostrup, president of Doctors Without Borders, testified before the Africa subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, saying, "There we have seen a total lack of resources. World Food Program (WFP) is saying that they are 76 percent underfunded, that they have just one quarter of what they need, to supply 1.9 million people who now need food, and will into 2003."

Mr. Rostrup said bad roads, collapsed bridges, and landmines make food deliveries difficult, and forced suspension of deliveries in large parts of three provinces - Huambo, Cuanza Sul and Cuando Cubango.

Another factor contributing to food insecurity in Angola is the spontaneous return of people to their places of origin.

The United Nations estimates that between 6,000 and 10,000 people did so each day in August and September, most to areas unsuitable for resettlement. "So what we see is the vulnerable population on the move, into areas where there is very little, if any, assistance. And what will happen later, is they will have to move again to get assistance. And this continuous movement of people will make them even more vulnerable," Mr. Rostrup said.

Also testifying before the committee was Walter Kansteiner, the top U.S. official for Africa. He said the United States is supporting international aid efforts, but adds humanitarian challenges are compounded by de-mobilization of former combatants.

"While the Angolan civil war is now over, it does leave numerous humanitarian challenges as well as human rights challenges. We have some 4.3 million Angolans that are internally displaced as a result of years of fighting. One-point-nine-million receive ongoing humanitarian assistance. Compounding these concerns are the 80,000 former UNITA combatants, and the 300,000 UNITA family members that still remain in those 35 quartering areas," he said.

The United States and others pressed the Angolan government several weeks ago not to close reception areas before resettlement preparations are complete.

Mr. Kansteiner said although the government in Luanda has the political will to carry out resettlement, it remains in the early stages of preparation. "The Angolan government is just now wrestling with how they get those things that are needed, in the hands of those that need to go back home and start their lives again," he said.

Authorities in Luanda say they want to begin resettling former UNITA soldiers and their families in appropriate areas by the end of this year.

However, aid groups such as Doctors Without Borders caution against premature resettlement or pressure by government authorities.

In his testimony Wednesday, Mr. Kansteiner said the Angolan government needs, in his words, to firmly embrace a free-market system led by private sector investment. He said the government also needs to deal with corruption, which he called "endemic at all levels."

He also said the United States will be working at the United Nations to end some financial and other sanctions still imposed on UNITA, using the benchmark of what makes sense in the effort to encourage an open political system in Angola.