Malnutrition crisis in Angola spurs rapid growth in MSF feeding centres

ALT Francesco Zizola/Magnum Photos

MSF has been rapidly expanding its operations in Angola in the face of the ongoing malnutrition crisis in the country. As of June 4, the organisation is running 23 Therapeutic Feeding Centres (TFCs) with over 3,000 beneficiaries. In addition, MSF is running 21 Supplementary Feeding Centres (SFCs) where a total of 10,365 people are being treated.

In January, the organisation had only 11 TFCs in operation and no SFCs. The growth has taken place since the peace accord was established in April this year.

But even with the increased feeding centres and programmes, the traffic of people able to leave the remote areas and find their way to areas that have aid facilities remains high.

The degree and duration of the levels of malnutrition indicates the condition has been a constant for a considerable time.

"We are a year too late," said Erwin van der Borght, Project Co-ordinator in Angola, after making an assessment of Cuemba, 80kms east of Kamakupa. Each week, MSF has had a constant flow of new arrivals coming for aid.

The region has an under-five mortality rate of 9.7deaths/per10.000/daily. The threshold for an emergency is just one death per 10.000 people, per day.

The malnutrition is not specific to any area in the country. The crisis is country-wide and differs only in the aspect of malnutrition they suffer. In Bailundo, in the Huambo province, global malnutrition has reached 34%. In Huila province, the town of Chipindo suffered massive numbers of deaths. There are over 4,000 fresh graves (from September 2001 and late February 2002) from a population of just 20,000. In Huambo Province, the town of Caala has almost 1,000 children in three TFCs run by MSF. In Bie Province, there are 350 beneficiaries at two of the TFCs. Another 2,000 are being treated at the SFCs.

MSF has been active in Angola for 27 years and has started been bringing attention to the current malnutrition crisis since the first cases started to arrive at MSF locations immediately after the most recent peace accord was signed in early April, this year.

The peace process has given MSF and other aid organisations access to remote populations who used to be unreachable due to the constant violence in the country. Previously, almost 90% of the country was out of reach and MSF was only active in 11 of the country's 18 provinces.

Now, with these people able to travel and MSF able to extend its operations further afield, the impact of years of neglect is clear. Thousands of people are suffering severe malnutrition and the country is facing a crisis considered the worst in Africa in the past ten years.