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Thursday, 16 May, 2002, 10:01 GMT 11:01 UK
Angola rebel soldiers 'starving'
Unita soldiers
The rebels are due to be integrated into the Angolan army
Reports from Angola say Unita soldiers are starving in the demobilisation camps where most are now gathered as part of a ceasefire agreement to end decades of civil war.

Five people a day are dying of malnutrition in camps at Calangue in southern Huila province, a senior Unita officer, Brigadier Basilio Sapalanga, has been quoted as saying.

I saw people unable to raise an arm to shoo away flies

Fr Franz Thoolen
Correspondents say there is increasing concern that if the situation does not improve, the peace process could be put at risk.

Senior Unita commanders are now asking why the government, with its oil revenues, has done so little to help.

And senior officers in the Angolan army fear that the lack of resources could jeopardise the peace.

Crime risk

A Vatican envoy on a fact-finding mission in Bie province, about 500 kilometres (310 miles) south-east of the capital, Luanda, said the situation in the camps was "catastrophic".

Children at a transit centre
Millions have been displaced by the fighting

"I saw people who were starving, skeletal, unable to raise an arm to shoo away flies," Father Franz Thoolen, told the Associated Press news agency.

And Unita's Foreign Affairs Secretary Alcides Sakala told Reuters news agency he was concerned that increasing numbers of Unita soldiers would escape the camps and turn to crime if they did not soon receive medical and food supplies.

"The situation could lead to a rise in the crime rate and attacks if they continue to starve," he said.

He did not give figures for how many had fled the camps.

Logistical problems

President Jose Eduardo dos Santos has appealed to the United Nations for assistance.

In his message, Mr dos Santos also asked for UN help to organise an international donor conference to finance the immediate needs stemming from the peace process, and, in the long run, national reconstruction.

Government ministers have been meeting to work out ways of speeding up the process of resettling Unita soldiers and their families - a group of some 350,000 people - now gathered in demobilisation camps across Angola.

In a country recovering from civil war, and threatened with a serious draught, there remain serious logistical problems in galvanising the resources to ensure a catastrophe is averted, says the BBC's Tony Andoh-Korsah.

As part of the ceasefire agreement, the government has promised to stock the 33 camps with food and medical supplies.

Ships are arriving with food from abroad, and the supplies will be taken to the camps.

See also:

02 Apr 02 | Africa
Angola rebels granted amnesty
31 Mar 02 | Africa
Angola moves closer to peace
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