Airdrops for inaccessible areas

The World Food Programme (WFP) is to conduct airdrops of food aid to Angolans in inaccessible areas.

Humanitarian agencies have been unable to reach many parts of the country, either because of the danger of landmines or poor road infrastructure.

WFP spokesman in the capital Luanda, Marcelo Spina-Hering, told IRIN that the agency was in the process of preparing for the airdrops.

"There are many different areas throughout the country that are inaccessible ... in three locations, in the north, south and centre of the country, there are 40,000 people isolated. That's only in those three areas, we do not know the total number of people cut-off from aid," he said.

WFP staff have been sent to Kenya for airdrop training. "They are very complex logistics operations, they are expensive and require special training and equipment," Spina-Hering added.

He explained that, while "we are very low on resources and airdrops are very expensive, we have to do it otherwise people will die".

WFP was awaiting the arrival of special equipment "which should arrive in a week or so" before deciding which areas would be targeted.

"We will prioritise them at that time, as the situation could change in a week's time and areas that were previously inaccessible may become accessible, while other areas could become inaccessible because a bridge collapses or something," Spina-Hering said.

The government needed to urgently conduct infrastructure repair and maintenance and the international community needed to "invest in de-mining" in the country.

"There are millions of landmines here in Angola. De-mining is needed now for humanitarian operations and also for the future development of the country. It will enable the country to pass [from the humanitarian crisis stage] to the development stage," he noted.

He pointed to reports of a US $3 million French grant to Angola for de-mining and the return of internally displaced persons to their home areas as a "good example of what the international community can do".

Spina-Hering said urgent cash and in-kind donations were needed. "We are likely to have disruption of the food aid pipeline by the end of March or early April. Our main concern now is getting maize," he said.