Another famine-stricken region discovered, at Galangue, Angola
16 May 2002
Not a day goes by without a woman sobbing for the child she just lost. Four children died in one day while as the team was conducting its survey.
Paris - A new exploratory mission, conducted at Galangue, 47 kilometers to the south of Bunjei (Huila Province), where Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) opened an emergency mission a month ago, has revealed another famine-stricken region, in which thousands of people are now close to death.
Over the past two weeks, Galangue has been serving as a location for the demobilization of Unita troops and their families. These soldiers, who have been arriving at Galangue across the Cubango River, have brought with them an estimated additional 10,000 people.
"Not a day goes by without a woman sobbing for the child she just lost", says Thereza, a 20 years old woman arrived in Galangue.
The MSF team counted 31 freshly dug graves in two weeks and estimated the mortality rate to be 5 per 10,000 people per day (five times higher than the alert threshold). The leading cause of mortality is acute malnutrition.
Our rapid nutritional survey, conducted among 538 children under 5, indicates that more than one-fourth of children screened who are still alive are suffering from severe malnutrition, and a further 18% are suffering from moderate malnutrition (42% of global malnutrition).
Four children died even as the team was conducting its survey (one day), while 188 people required urgent care (130 children under five, 50 children aged between 5 and 10, and eight adolescents and adults). A first group was transferred on an emergency basis to Caala during the night of Saturday May 11 to Sunday May 12, and the others are being transported there by truck. The feeding center at Caala is already providing care for 850 severely malnourished children.
Over the next few days, in an effort to cope with this latest crisis situation, MSF has set up medical mobile teams in Galangue (dealing with emergency cases and stabilization of patients prior to transfer). MSF will very soon begin a food distribution for families with children under 10. In the space of a few weeks, MSF has opened emergency missions at Bunjei, Chipindo, and Chilembo (Huambo and Huila Provinces), Damba (Malange Province), Menongue (Cuando Cubango Province), Chitembo (Bié Province), Camacupa, and Kuito, to provide medical care to people who are close to death.
Since March, MSF teams working in Angola have discovered tens of thousands of starving, sick people. Trapped in regions disputed by the warring parties, they have had no access to humanitarian assistance for many years. Held hostage by each of the warring parties in turn, they have for the past three years been living in a state of slavery.
They have been displaced, either by force or by threat of force, and their villages and homes have often been burned down. A constant pattern of attack and reprisal and systematic plundering have prevented them from growing or harvesting their crops, depriving them of basic resources and condemning them to a life of misery. Without a general food distribution and immediate, massive mobilization by the authorities and by humanitarian agencies, hundreds of thousands of people may soon die.
In an effort to deal with these crises, MSF has tripled its expatriate teams in these regions. MSF has been present in Angola since 1983. The agency has over 150 expatriates and more than 1,000 local employees working in eleven of the country's 18 provinces.