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Plan for a new MSF programme in northern Angola

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Two years after evacuating the area, MSF is hoping to again provide basic healthcare services to the people of M'banza Congo, in Zaire province, Angola. As part of the new programme, MSF is considering starting a sleeping sickness project in the area.

"Around M'banza Congo, some 500 people contract sleeping sickness each year," says Health Advisor Welmoet Tuynman. "The disease is fatal without treatment. Some 8,000 IDPs who arrived recently are now also at risk.
The health authorities have only a very limited and insufficient programme to control the disease in the area."

Both Tuynman and Humanitarian Affairs Officer Katrien Coppens recently visited Angola. The country is again of special concern to MSF because the renewal of the 25-year old civil war in late 1998 has severely affected the humanitarian situation. In the face of efforts by the government and the international community to paint the situation as returning to normal, all five MSF sections operating in Angola released a critical report on 9 November on the humanitarian situation.

The report highlights the government's and UNITA's willful neglect for the health of the people, increasing levels of violence against civilians, widespread forced displacement and the lack of humanitarian access to vast areas of the country often due to landmines and the threat of attacks by UNITA.

"As UNITA is now on the run, they're not interested anymore in providing healthcare, etc., and they are becoming increasingly violent. No international NGO has been able to work in UNITA territory for two years now," says Coppens. The Angolan army is also responsible for the large increase in violence and the forced displacement of the civilian population.

While the prospect for gaining access to UNITA zones remains bleak, MSF hopes to be successful in Zaire province, where MSF previously worked during a time of UNITA control.