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MSF surveys in Mavinga show depth of ongoing malnutrition crisis in pockets of Angola

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Geneva - Two recent nutritional surveys carried out by MSF in Mavinga, Cuando Cubango province, have shown rates of malnutrition so severe they clearly indicate the need for large scale humanitarian assistance for weeks, even months, to come.

Mavinga is an isolated city, in the south-west of the country. This old bastion of UNITA is very difficult to access and normally has a population of 7,000. Since the end of the war in April of this year, 40,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) have gathered there in the two Quartering and Family Areas (QFAs) in Matungo and Capembe that were installed by the Angolan Government for the ex-members of UNITA.

MSF was able to reach this zone in mid-June and immediately opened an emergency feeding programme. Nutritional surveys, undertaken in July 2002 in both Mavinga and the Matungo QFA, confirm the need for ongoing emergency nutritional aid and an even greater need for increased assistance. The two surveys, carried out on 1,687 children under the age of five, showed that 25% of the children in Matungo suffered from malnutrition (8.9% with severe malnutrition) and 12.4% of the children of Mavinga suffered from malnutrition (5.6% with severe malnutrition).

These surveys also allowed for a calculation of a retrospective death rate, for the month of July, of children under the age of five - with alarming results. In the Mavinga area, at least five children died every day during this period. That is three to four times higher than the rate used to determine an acute crisis.

"In spite of the dissolution of UNITA and the hopes of peace, hunger and malnutrition continue to threaten the life of thousands of Angolans", said on Dr. Abiy Tamrat, coordinator of the emergency cell in the MSF office in Geneva. "Ten days ago, we increased the capacity of our therapeutic feeding center (TFC) to be able to accomodate up to 300 children. We know that from now on the Mavinga zone will continue to have between 300 and 400 severely malnourished children. " Today, despite the start of general food distributions, MSF teams are treating approximately 200 children in the Mavinga TFC. Since its opening, 295 children have been treated there.

Any child considered severely malnourished urgently requires immediate medical care to prevent their death. The lack of vaccinations and access to health care since 1997 in the zones under UNITA control has increased the risks of epidemics where an outbreak would prove particularly serious in such a nutritional context.

MSF has been active in Angola since 1983 and currently has 174 expat staff and more than 2,200 national staff members. The MSF teams are present in 11 of the 18 provinces and have been trying to reach the isolated populations where access remains difficult due to mines, ruined roads, bridges and other infrastructures.