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Monday, 25 November, 2002, 10:30 GMT
Hunger spectre over Angola
Family in Cumbila
The WFP hopes to feed nearly 2m Angolans this year

Angola, where thousands died of starvation earlier this year, could be heading for another crisis of terrible proportions if aid routes are blocked by the heavy seasonal rains which have just started.

Aid workers describe mortality rates even now as "alarming", and predict that they will become far worse in the coming months.

Millions of Angolans are utterly dependent on food aid for their survival.

If trucks carrying aid cannot get through to the worst-hit areas because the dirt roads are mired in mud, the people will simply die.

Sixty per cent of Angola's humanitarian aid is delivered by road.

No crops

We travelled to the village of Cumbila deep in the hills of Huambo province, a place that has already been cut off from aid because it is so remote.

Makeshift clinic in Cumbila
Many Angolans are undernourished

Eleven thousand villagers in Cumbila desperately need food.

The villagers flooded back to Cumbila, a former rebel stronghold, in June, two months after the Angola's long civil war ended.

Because of the fighting they had not planted crops, so there is no food.

Rats

The one dirt road running through the village was lined with children and adults alike, gaunt and emaciated.

Woman in burnt down village
The civil war has left scars

Elisa Nampombo, an elderly woman, took us to her hut and showed us her stash of food. It consisted of a bowl of leaves, and a rat.

Like most villagers in Cumbila she spends most of her days hunting for anything edible: rats, insects, or wild leaves have become the staple diet here.

Living like this most of her family have starved to death. "I had five children", she said, but four of them died because of the hunger. Only one is alive now."

Starving to death

Outside the town there is a graveyard with many freshly dug graves.

The village chiefs told us people starved to death in Cumbila almost every day.

Cumbila cemetery
Thousands have died of starvation over the last three months

Angola is a country with two faces. In the capital Luanda the streets are lined with exclusive restaurants serving lobster and chilled white wine.

Angola's elite, and particularly those with ties to the government and the hugely profitable oil industry, live well.

In the last month it has come to light that $5bn of state money has gone missing from public accounts over the last five years.

Corruption

This is catalogued in an internal International Monetary Fund report.

The report links Angola's humanitarian woes directly to corruption.

The missing money, an average of a billion dollars a year, is worth five times what Angola asks in emergency aid from the international community each year.

Child at Cumbila makeshift clinic
Children are the first to suffer

This year the international community is having great difficulties raising the funds its needs from donors.

By September donors had given less than half of the funds requested by the aid community.

As Angolans face one of their most difficult moments they may find they are being punished twice over: once by their government which is siphoning off public resources for selfish gains, and again by the international community, reluctant to fund corrupt leaders.


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23 May 02 | Africa
05 Apr 02 | Country profiles
07 Mar 02 | Country profiles
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