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The BBC's Justin Pearce
"The World Food Programme now says its aid flights in Angola are to be cancelled for an indefinite period"
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Head of Care charity in Kuito Ahmed Mohamed Ahmed
describes the severity of the situation in Angola
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Wednesday, 20 June, 2001, 02:56 GMT 03:56 UK
UN warns of Angolan catastrophe
Chikala, camp outside Kuito
Displaced people are heavily dependent on food aid
The United Nations World Food Programme, which has suspended food aid flights in Angola after planes came under rebel attack, says the whole international humanitarian operation in the country is being put at risk.

The WFP representative in the central town of Kuito, Peter Rodrigues, said the situation there was likely to become catastrophic if there were no food flights for the next week or two.

The UN agency cancelled all aid flights in Angola until further notice after a missile was fired at a WFP plane for the second time in a week.

Attacks like this are usually blamed on the rebel Unita movement, which has admitted shooting at one of the planes.

A spokesman for the Unita rebels, Joffre Justino, told the BBC that there was no food in the agency's planes, only weapons and soldiers, and he said the aircraft were legitimate targets.

He said that if the UN pressed the Angolan Government to stop the war, the food problems would be solved.

No-one has admitted responsibility for the more recent attack in which a missile narrowly missed another aid plane.

Queuing for food aide in Kuito
Angolans in Kuito queuing for aid handouts
UN officials met Angolan Government representatives on Tuesday morning, hoping to obtain security commitments such as a safe air corridor that might have allowed the flights to resume.

But WFP spokeswoman Cristina Muller told the BBC that the UN had been unable to secure the security guarantees it had been hoping for.

More than a million Angolans rely on emergency aid - most of them displaced by a civil war, which has continued for more than 25 years.

With land travel inside Angola hindered by fighting and landmines, international agencies use aircraft to deliver aid.

The BBC correspondent in Luanda, Justin Pearce, says that while some areas have food stocks to last several weeks, the Central Highland area of Angola is particularly vulnerable.

MSF feeding centre, Kuito
More than 1,000 children have been admitted to therapeutic feeding centres
The town of Kuito, where more than 200,000 people depend on international handouts for survival, has only enough food to last until the end of the week.

The number of people requiring emergency assistance has increased dramatically in recent months.

Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos has called on the international community to put pressure on Unita to end the civil war.

Mr Dos Santos, who is on a visit to Belgium, told journalists that the international community should increase pressure on Unita to observe the 1994 Lusaka peace accord.

He also said Belgium had agreed to monitor the trade of illegal diamonds from Angola.

Unita is believed to be funding the war from diamond smuggling.

Last week its leader, Jonas Savimbi, admitted that United Nations sanctions against his movement were a major setback.

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See also:

19 Jun 01 | Africa
Angola's civil war in pictures
08 Jun 01 | Africa
WFP plane hit in Angola
31 May 01 | Business
Angola 'regrets' De Beers pullout
26 May 01 | Africa
Rebels free children in Angola
22 May 01 | Africa
Unita attack east of Luanda
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