Over 100,000 Angolans in south cut off from badly needed aid, UN official says

Over 100,000 Angolans in south cut off from badly needed aid, UN official says

Mine infestation, treacherous roads and deteriorating bridges have left more than 100,000 people in southern Angola virtually cut off from desperately needed humanitarian assistance, the top United Nations relief official in that country said today.

Just back from a visit to the region, Erik de Mul, UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Angola, reported that of all the areas that had become accessible to humanitarian partners since hostilities ended in April, the situation in Mavinga, in Kuando Kubango province, was the most critical. "Access is very difficult, he said "and the sheer number of people in need in Mavinga and surrounding areas is overwhelming."

Although there are currently three non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and one UN agency, the World Food Programme (WFP), currently working in the area, the humanitarian situation in the town remained critical, as roads and bridges were in desperate need of repair and the single airstrip was wearing down from flights bringing food assistance.

Mr. de Mul stressed that the overall situation in Mavinga has proved difficult to stabilize. "The priorities right now are to increase the amount of potable water available in the town and to pre-position food before the rainy season begins and makes everything worse," he said. The UN's other priorities include distribution of blankets and other non-food items, as well as de-mining.

According to Mr. de Mul, international donors have been generous in their response to the 2002 Inter-Agency Appeal for Angola, but more funds were urgently required in order to stabilize the grim humanitarian situation in areas such as Mavinga, as well as in Bunjei and Alto Chicapa. Humanitarian partners were currently preparing the 2003 consolidated appeal, which will focus on life saving and resettlement and return activities.

In other news, Ibrahim Gambari, Secretary-General Kofi Annan's Special Representative for Angola, met with President José Eduardo dos Santos this morning. Mr. Gambari told reporters afterwards that an expert panel has already started working on the first formal meeting next week of the Joint Commission, which is tasked with completing the outstanding issues of the Lusaka Protocol.