Humanitarian crisis in central highlands

A “critical” humanitarian situation is unfolding in the Angolan central highlands as a result of “persistent insecurity” that has driven people off their land, an OCHA statement has warned.

The crisis is centred on two municipalities in Bie Province that have been the scene of heavy fighting between government troops and UNITA rebels. Large numbers of internally displaced persons began arriving in Camacupa town in March, the majority fleeing insecurity in Camacupa and Cuemba municipalities. Local sources report that farmers in these areas have been unable to cultivate due to the insecurity and that food shortages are increasing. Displacement has intensified during the past two weeks and several thousand new arrivals are expected shortly, OCHA said on Friday.
According to government sources, more than 2,230 people have also arrived at a camp near the town of Kuanza, 12 km from Camacupa. Conditions in this camp appear to be among the worst in the country. The security situation in the Camacupa area, however, currently limits humanitarian interventions.

The government and OCHA undertook a joint mission to the provincial capital Kuito on 11 April to assess the humanitarian situation in Camacupa. An emergency plan of action has been drafted covering the municipality and settlements along the road to Kuito. It includes training of health personnel in Camacupa, ongoing nutritional screenings, installation of a supplementary feeding centre, water and sanitation activities and distribution of clothing, kitchen kits and other non-food items.

The current crisis in Camacupa has further aggravated the humanitarian situation in Bíe. During the month of March alone, 13,697 new displaced persons were registered. The poor state of the Kuito airstrip continues to seriously inhibit the delivery of humanitarian assistance. At present, agencies are able to bring in less than 50 percent of the assistance required to meet the needs of the population, OCHA noted.

Humanitarian agencies are also concerned about proposed plans to resettle approximately 2,500 families currently living in the Camacupa camp in Kuito back to their original homes in Camacupa. Persistent insecurity and food shortages in the area may inhibit the safe resettlement of these populations. Agencies are working closely with local authorities to ensure that all resettlement in the province is done on the basis of the Norms for the Resettlement of Displaced Populations, approved by the government in October 2000. The Norms specify the pre-conditions that should be met prior to resettlement and the targets for social assistance at the new resettlement sites.

UN Humanitarian Coordinator Ronald Sibanda, said: “We are distressed by the conditions in Camacupa and strongly support government initiatives to bring in urgently-needed relief. We continue to be concerned about humanitarian conditions in areas that are inaccessible to humanitarian agencies. We are afraid that there may be many more areas like Camacupa where people are in serious distress.”