MSF increasingly alarmed by nutritional crisis in Angola

Luanda/Amsterdam - International medical relief organisation Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) has become increasingly alarmed by the extent of the current nutritional crisis in Angola. Since the beginning of the peace process, formerly inaccessible areas are slowly opening up.

Thousands who have been living in isolation for years - without sufficient food and shelter - are now able to seek assistance and be reached by aid organisations. Most people are severely malnourished. Many are dying en route and many more will die unless immediate action is taken.

Three days ago the MSF team conducted rapid assessments in two recently opened quartering areas of Malange province in north-central Angola. Unita soldiers and their family members - a lot of them forcibly recruited during the civil war - arrive out of the bush in these designated areas in order to be demobilised. The MSF assessment team found an estimated death rate of 7 per 10,000 people/day which is seven times the emergency threshold.

MSF has begun to transfer the most severely malnourished children to their therapeutic feeding centres (TFCs) in Malange town. "The sight of so many people in such a devastating state is overwhelming. It seems the weak have already died, and the strong are already weak.

I spoke to quite a few women who had lost all their children. There are just no words for the suffering of the people.", says Els Adams, MSF Project Coordinator in Malange. Projections are frightening. Only one third of the population outside Malange has arrived from the bush.

According to them, there are many sick and malnourished people amongst the roughly 7,000 still en route. Sadly, those most in need are too weak to attempt the arduous walk. They have endured extreme hardship and have had no access to health care since the resumption of the war in 1998.

Over the last two weeks MSF has opened three new TFCs in Malange, bringing the total to five centres. By now, a total of 360 children and adults have been admitted for therapeutic feeding. MSF teams are giving similar accounts about malnutrition from other locations in Angola, like Chipindo, Bunjei, Chilembo and Chitembo, where MSF is also stepping up its aid efforts.

MSF urges the Government of Angola to address the emergency health needs of Unita family members, including delivery of food, vaccination of children and transportation of those still in the bush.
MSF has requested the United Nations to immediately respond to the crisis; up to this moment they have refused to enter the quartering areas.

The World Food Programme (WFP) should immediately implement a general food distribution for civilians in the quartering areas to prevent the nutritional status of the population from worsening.
MSF states that the international community must take urgent action and enable other humanitarian agencies to intervene.