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Thursday, 23 May, 2002, 10:22 GMT 11:22 UK
Aid arrives for Angola's ex-rebels
Angolan refugees
Both civilians and soldiers are starving

The first consignment of foreign aid destined for the families of former rebels has arrived in the Angolan capital, Luanda, and will be distributed in the coming days.

In terms of a peace plan signed by the government and the Unita rebel movement last month, more than 50,000 former fighters, plus their family members have arrived in camps, where the soldiers are to be disarmed.

But there is a severe shortage of food in the camps, with reports of up to five people dying every day.

Angolan soldiers
The rebels are due to be integrated into the Angolan army
The arrival of help has been delayed by prolonged negotiations between the United Nations and the government.

This first consignment donated by the United States, consisted of items like blankets and plastic sheeting for the construction of shelters.

But there is still an urgent need for food for the soldiers and their families, as well as for the other people previously displaced during the war, and who are now starting to come within the reach of humanitarian help.

The medical relief agency, Medecins sans Frontieres, estimates that at least 100,000 Angolans are suffering from acute malnutrition.

Food politics

Aid has been delayed by protracted negotiations between the United Nations and the government, which failed to give the security guarantees that the UN wanted.

Now the UN is saying that it will support those non-governmental organisations which are prepared to extend their operations and help the families of former Unita soldiers.

The issue of providing help to the former guerrillas themselves is a politically awkward one.

But some humanitarian staff admit in private that when it comes to providing food, there is no point in trying to distinguish between soldiers and non-soldiers, and that saving lives is what matters.

While several other southern African countries are also stricken by hunger at the moment, the emergency in Angola is of a different kind.

A recent statement from Medecins sans Frontieres says that the crisis here is the direct result of the strategies of war pursued by the government and the rebels as they move civilians off their farms in their attempts to keep control over the population.

Jonas Savimbi, killed after 26 years of civil war

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16 May 02 | Africa
02 Apr 02 | Africa
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