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Wednesday, 26 April, 2000, 00:25 GMT 01:25 UK
UN: Angola is on the brink
Angolan children
Angola faces a humanitarian disaster, says the UN
By Lara Pawson in Luanda

A shocking report compiled by the United Nations humanitarian office in Angola is being released on Wednesday in the country's capital, Luanda.

The report describes Angola's humanitarian situation as alarming, and in certain cases, on the brink of disaster.

It is based on a survey conducted throughout the country earlier this month, led by the UN senior officer for emergency relief, Carolyn McCaskey.

According to the 38-page report, people are surviving on larvae and grass in certain parts of Angola's central Highland Wambo Province, where humanitarian conditions are the worst in the country.

Expected to worsen

The document is the result of the first stage of a two-phase blitz on Angola's humanitarian crisis, which the report says could worsen in the coming months.

Thousands of Angolans living in makeshift transit centres are said to be in extreme distress, lacking water, shelter and toilet facilities.

Many beneficiaries of foreign aid are subjected to harassment by unpaid officials from Angola's armed forces.

Basic facilities are lacking
The government is also accused of moving many displaced people to unsafe areas against their will.

These powerless populations must be immediately transferred, the report says.

Despite the UN's intention to provide a picture of the most acute needs of "at risk" populations, other humanitarian organisations may not embrace the report.

May be political

One foreign aid worker who saw a leaked copy earlier this week said it was simply part of a broader UN push to make itself look good after the mistakes it had made in the past.

He added that, while the report covers only 31 locations, it could have picked hundreds of equally distressing areas.

But he welcomed the fact that the report had highlighted the difficulties many aid agencies faced in acquiring work visas.

The report makes an urgent request for the Angolan government to ease foreign aid workers' entry to the country.

According to one aid agency, getting a work visa in Angola is like fighting the Spanish Inquisition.

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