Huge funding shortfall forces UN to end feeding programme in Angola
A huge shortfall in funding is forcing the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) to wind down all its operations to feed hundreds of thousands of Angolans by the end of the year, after three decades of direct involvement in the southern African country as it recovers from a disastrous civil war.
WFP’s current operation, valued at $90 million, was launched in April with plans to run until March 2009, but contributions to date total just $19.5 million, a shortfall of 78 per cent, and in September the agency began suspending food distributions to 700,000 Angolans, including 220,000 children in school-feeding programmes.
Other beneficiaries include pregnant and nursing women, children under the age of five and people suffering from HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and pellagra, a disorder brought on by a deficiency of the nutrient called niacin.
“WFP’s aim has always been to hand over responsibility for food assistance and development support to the Government of Angola,” WFP Acting Country Director Sonsoles Ruedas said today. “A drop in donor support has spurred us to speed up the handover process. We plan to scale back to a small office in Luanda, which will provide only technical assistance to the Government, starting in 2007.”
WFP has started discussions with the Government on handing over any remaining food stocks for distribution by competent state institutions to store, transport and distribute. The Agency has at least 13,200 tons of commodities in warehouses in Lobito and Luanda.
WFP arrived in Angola in 1976 to deliver food aid across the country to people stranded and displaced by the civil war. When the war ended in 2002, it assisted with the long process of reconstruction and repatriation of refugees, which is still continuing. More than 80,000 refugees are expected to return home from camps in Zambia, Namibia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
In addition to the food stocks currently in Lobito and Luanda, another 3,800 tons are due to arrive shortly. WFP’s air transport service for the humanitarian community will close down at the end of November 2006. Another project, to reconstruct bridges in resettlement areas in the east of the country, has funding that will allow it to continue until the end of January.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) today launched the final phase of its repatriation operation for Angolans in the DRC, starting the return of more than 20,000 people who have been living outside camps in the Bas Congo region. When completed in late December, it will mark the end of a four-year repatriation programme.
UNHCR officially ended repatriation operations for all Angolans living in refugee sites in four countries bordering Angola in late 2005, but agreed to extend the programme for a further year to help those living outside camps to return home.
Because of the poor state of the roads and the danger of mines in Angola, the agency is considering airlifting home more than 5,000 refugees who want to return to Uige province in northern Angola.
During the three decades of conflict, nearly half a million Angolans fled to neighbouring countries. Some 370,000 have returned home.