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Death rates in Angola confirm emergency situation

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Paris/Luanda - A nutritional survey done by Epicentre among 15,000 people in Chiteta in Northern Huambo province of Angola between 10 and 14 June confirms a serious nutritional crisis. 700 severely malnourished children are being treated in MSF's Therapeutic Feeding Centre in Bailundo.

One in six children is malnourished, and malnutrition is the main cause of death in this region. The rate of global malnutrition is 18%, and the severe malnutrition rate of 5% among children-under-5. Yet there is still no guarantee that enough food is being distributed to this population.

This is just the latest indication of the scale of the emergency in Angola, where international relief has barely started to reach hundreds of thousands of people who were deprived of it during the civil war that ended in April. The survey showed that the overall mortality rate for the first 6 months of this year (January 1 - June 12th 2002) was 2.3/per 10 000/ per day. This is four times the normal crude mortality rate, and twice the level that signifies an emergency.

Three-quarters of deaths were children under five years old. Overall mortality rates among children under 5 was of 5,7/10 000 per day: 2.5 times the emergency threshold, and five times the normal mortality rate for children under 5.

Last month MSF opened a therapeutic feeding centre in Bailundo, in northern Huambo province; this feeding centre is also assisting malnourished people gathered in Chiteta, who are taken to Bailundo by MSF mobile medical teams. More than 700 severely malnourished children are currently being treated by in Bailundo therapeutic feeding centre.

"MSF's nutritional programmes in the Bailundo's municipality has probably begun to contain this high mortality rate, but the level of severe malnutrition in Chiteta is still alarming" said Vincent Brown, an epidemiologist who co-ordinated the survey. Immediate nutritional and medical aid is needed.

However, international assistance to Angola is still largely insufficient and restricted access to quartering and regrouping areas, where UNITA soldiers and their families have gathered, is frustrating the delivery of aid to this vulnerable population.

Since the April 4th ceasefire agreement, MSF has gained access to populations cut off from humanitarian assistance for over three years, finding levels of severe malnutrition and mortality far exceeding emergency thresholds and confirming pockets of famine.

MSF teams are currently treating some 14,000 malnourished people in 44 feeding centres in 11 of the country's 18 provinces.