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Wednesday, 12 June, 2002, 12:32 GMT 13:32 UK
UN defends its Angola role
Malnourished girl
Half a million Angolans are facing starvation
The United Nations has rejected claims by an aid group that it had been slow to respond to Angola's humanitarian crisis and says it has worked unceasingly to ease suffering in that country.


The world is consciously allowing Angolans to die of hunger

Morten Rostrup
MSF

The UN was reacting to criticism by Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF) which has accused the Angolan government and the UN of not responding quickly to the country's food crisis.

MSF accused the Angolan Government of criminal and chronic negligence of its own people, which it said had left nearly half a million Angolans facing starvation.

A ceasefire in the civil war agreed in April has given aid workers access to new areas - revealing the extent of the food shortages.

Malnutrition

"The United Nations has repeatedly drawn public attention to the crisis in the country and has worked without stop to increase the amount of support for humanitarian operations from the government and donors," the UN said on Wednesday in a statement signed by its Humanitarian Coordinator in Angola, Erick de Mul.

On Tuesday, MSF said that malnutrition in Angola was the worst its staff had seen since Sudan's devastating famine several years ago.

Angolans receiving food hand-outs
Food distribution only began recently

"The world is consciously allowing Angolans to die of hunger," Dr Morten Rostrup, president of MSF international, said in a statement.

"If the Angolan authorities, the UN agencies, the international community and the donor countries don't respond immediately to this crisis... nearly half a million Angolans are threatened by starvation and diseases."

The United Nations said MSF's interpretation was wrong.

"The MSF statement is wrong on many points and the accusation of indifference by the UN to the humanitarian crisis in Angola is blatantly incorrect.

"MSF has missed the key point at this crucial juncture...The UN does not have, at present, sufficient resources to launch programmes, including general food distributions, to meet all of the needs."

Civil war

Correspondents say despite its mineral wealth, much of Angola is in ruins after almost three decades of civil war.

Angola exports more oil to the United States than Kuwait.

Some four million people - one third of the population - have been displaced from their homes over the course of the war that began with Angola's independence from Portugal in 1975.

Malnourished boy
MSF says the response to the food crisis in Angola has been slow and insufficient

Angola's Government and the Unita rebel group agreed in April to stop fighting and negotiate a peace settlement after the death in combat of rebel leader Jonas Savimbi.

Angola is among half a dozen countries in southern Africa facing severe food shortages caused by drought and floods as well as wars and bad policies.

Aid workers have warned that up to 13 million people could be affected in the region.


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16 May 02 | Africa
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