Humanitarian situation "shocking"

Calling on the international community to "remember Angola", UN Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Kenzo Oshima told the UN Security Council on Wednesday that the country's protracted conflict had led to levels of suffering that were "truly shocking".

In an update on the humanitarian situation, Oshima said the Angolan civil war had created one of the largest displaced populations in the world. Since 1999, the total number had doubled from two million to over four million, which means that "almost one-third of the country's entire 12 million population is displaced".

Oshima described the status of children as "catastrophic", with 30 percent of all children dying before they reach the age of five. "An estimated 100,000 children have been separated from their families and evidence indicates that child soldiers are once again being forced to fight in the country's ruinous civil war," he added.

"Almost all humanitarian agencies in the country are working at full capacity. In some locations, agencies are overwhelmed by the needs, with neither the means nor personnel to meet the emergency needs of the IDPs. In Kuito and Camacupa, more than 62,000 displaced persons have poured into the area during the last five months. An additional 12,000 entered during the first two weeks of January alone. There is almost no space to accommodate these people and resources have run out," he warned.

Oshima noted there were some positive trends from the government to support humanitarian action. Those included the allocation of more than US $50 million to a national emergency programme, and the creation of a Fund for Peace and Reconciliation in the past two years.

But the Under-Secretary General said much more needed to be done, "and quickly for that matter". He stressed that one of the major constraints to delivering humanitarian aid was the appalling state of the country's infrastructure. Four of the airstrips used by humanitarian agencies are currently under repair. Damaged bridges also severely limit the use of surface routes.

Oshima noted that there were a number of steps that must be taken by the government in order to take "greater responsibility to help alleviate the suffering of its own people". These included the securing of roads to facilitate aid deliveries; the establishment of days of tranquillity in order to allow access to communities; the cessation of all forms of harassment of humanitarian workers by the authorities; and increased government funding for humanitarian programmes.

He said that he would visit Angola in the spring as part of a coordinated effort to take up priority issues with the government.

But Oshima also said that the international donor community should be more forthcoming. Despite the increase in humanitarian needs, only 47 percent of the US $233 million requested in the 2001 Consolidated Inter-Agency Appeal was received. He urged member states to "give generously and immediately to the 2002 Appeal".

Ultimately, he said, the solution to the humanitarian crisis in Angola was the end of the war. "We know that there have been some positive developments on the political front. The window of opportunity which currently presents itself is of great importance, and every effort must be made to arrive at a durable and just solution. We look to the Security Council in particular for innovative and courageous solutions to end the war."