Urgent action is needed to stem Angola’s severe humanitarian crisis, the United Nations envoy for war-affected children said today after wrapping up a week-long visit to the country.
Olara Otunnu, Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict called for immediate assistance to displaced persons, especially those emerging from areas previously controlled by the rebel National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA). The envoy also described the life-threatening conditions facing children in these areas.
“During my visits to camps, provincial hospitals and transit centres for displaced persons, I found that most of the children were suffering from severe malnutrition, malaria, pneumonia, scabies and other preventable diseases,” he said.
“Unless immediate action is taken to provide food, medicine and water [to those in need], the present humanitarian crisis could easily assume tragic proportions,” warned Mr. Otunnu, appealing to the Angolan Government and the international community to “join hands and mobilize to save lives.”
UN statistics paint a harsh picture of conditions facing Angolan children: over 2 million have been displaced, 100,000 separated from their families, 50,000 orphaned, and tens of thousands injured by landmines. Malnutrition is widespread in war-affected areas, and more than 60 per cent of the country’s children are not able to attend school.
Mr. Otunnu hailed the recent end of the 30-year war in Angola, saying he was “very encouraged” by the prevailing spirit of reconciliation. “The challenge now is to invest in children,” he said. “Investing in children is the best way to invest in peace and stability.”