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Angola: Humanitarian Update

AfricaFocus Bulletin
May 4, 2004 (040504)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor's Note

Two years after the end to war in Angola, a UN analysis reports, almost all the 3.8 million internally displaced people have returned home. Nevertheless, "the transition [from war to recovery] seems to be on hold," says the report, faulting both donors and the Angolan government for failure to get resources to local communities.

At the end of April, according to financial reports available on, only 29% of the $221 million in humanitarian requirements was committed. Relief food rations were cut early in the year, and according to Angola Peace Monitor, funding for non-governmental organizations has suffered most.

This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains a summary article from the UN's Integrated Regional Information Network and excerpts from the UN's quarterly humanitarian assessment. Updates on this and related issues can be found in the April issue of the Angola Peace Monitor (, and in a variety of articles on AfricaFiles (

For general Angola background and links see


Many thanks to those of you who have already sent in your voluntary subscription payment to support AfricaFocus Bulletin. If you have not yet made such a payment and would like to do so, please visit for details.

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Angola: Poor Still Waiting for Benefits of Peace

UN Integrated Regional Information Networks

April 5, 2004


The guns in Angola may have fallen silent, but the broad consensus on the streets of this battered country is that two years of peace have done little to better the lives of ordinary citizens.

Sunday marked the second anniversary of the signing of the peace accord between the ruling MPLA and its arch-foe, UNITA, which brought to an end one of Africa's longest and bloodiest civil conflicts.

The celebrations that greeted the end of the war in April 2002 have faded, replaced with despondency and frustration among a vast proportion of Angolans, many of whom still live in abject poverty, say observers.

"The situation is not getting worse, but there are no huge improvements," said one senior United Nations officer. "We're no longer in the emergency phase but, in terms of basic social services, there has been no major improvement in the country, for sure."

Many Angolans complain that, so far at least, peace has only brought tangible benefit to the rich minority, and that life for poor people has not improved much, if at all.

"It is very, very difficult to say that things are better. There are little things, but really, hardly anything has changed," said one woman, a teacher and a translator.

"The conditions have been created to have a better life but things are being done at such a slow pace, we just can't see the improvement. What has been done is really just a drop in the ocean," she added.


Former soldier Joao Francisco (not his real name) agrees. Pleased that he no longer has to fight, he nevertheless looks back to the early war years with nostalgia. He remembers a time when he had spare cash in his pocket, could afford holidays to Portugal and basic foodstuffs were subsidised by the authorities.

Many combatants have been demobilised since the end of the war but, despite government plans to reintegrate them back into their communities, many are struggling to find work and feed their families. Once at the heart of the conflict, they feel cast aside during peacetime.

"At least under Marxist rule, the government subsidised the poor," Francisco said. "They bought rice, eggs and milk for needy families, but now it's all imported - prices are going up every day, but wages are staying the same."

The MPLA, which has been in power since independence in 1975, formally abandoned Marxism-Leninism in 1990 as it moved towards accepting multiparty democracy.

For the working class in the capital, Luanda, it is the sheer economics of peace that are proving difficult to swallow.

The oil-rich country is one of the most expensive in Africa, but salaries are woefully low, and failing to keep pace with the rising cost of living. The average inflation rate was around 77 percent in 2003.

Over the next year, real GDP growth is expected to surge to double digits on the back of rising oil production, but inflation will rise to an average of 90 percent, the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) has predicted.

The anticipated growth will be capital-intensive and import-dependent, "with few linkages to other sectors of the economy or much impact on employment", said the EIU. "Economic performance will remain well below potential, owing to a weak physical infrastructure, poor economic policy and corruption. The post-war peace dividend will thus be limited."


Take 26-year-old Antonio Lopes (not his real name): educated and eager to better himself, he is desperate to return to university to study civil engineering. But with work scarce, and US $200 needed just for the entry fee, he is struggling to cobble together enough funds for the sign-up cost, never mind the ongoing tuition.

"Before was better, because life was cheaper," he said. "The arms may have been laid down, but there is not yet real peace. Peace for me signifies harmony, love, work, education, and growth - but we don't have any of that.

"I feel sad and also very frustrated because I am not able to think about my future. I don't know how I'll overcome these obstacles to live a good life," he noted.

There is anger that a country, endowed with such immense natural resources and which should be so rich, is failing to provide the most basic education and health services to its people.

Angola has one of the world's worst child mortality rates, 80 percent of homes do not have electricity, and half its people are without safe water, proper health care or education, according to United Nations figures.

"We need more transparency; more clarity on the method of dividing things. We have petrol and diamonds, we're a very rich country, but our people are poor," Lopes said.

"Can you imagine, when we have so little, how it feels to see these very expensive BMWs, Mercedes, 4x4s in the street? It makes us very sad, and more than a little angry," he added.

A recent spate of civil disturbances over the government's plan to close some of the capital's markets shows that people now feel they can speak out; it also illustrates a growing discontent among ordinary Angolans.

"People wouldn't dare demonstrate against the government in the past. In that way, it's a good sign, but it's not good in another way because it shows that people are not happy; it shows they are dissatisfied with the government," the teacher said.

The most noticeable change since the end of the war is that people are free to travel, and roads and rail networks are beginning the slow process of reconstruction.

Of the 4.5 million refugees who fled to neighbouring countries, as well as displaced persons scattered within the country's borders and demobilised soldiers, around 3.5 million have headed home.

Others are plucking up the courage to travel for pleasure and see parts of their country that were previously cut off.

"Now we can fly to Benguela or Huambo. It's not a problem - provided you have enough money for the air fare," said a driver for an oil company, who asked not to be named.

But those benefits are reserved for a tiny middle class, rich enough to take planes and brave enough to travel.

"Step outside the bubble of the well-to-do in central Luanda - it's a completely different picture," said one foreign observer. "If you have money already, then for sure you will have seen an improvement. But for most people, their roads are full of potholes; they have terrible hospitals; they have problems sending their kids to school. Life is still as difficult - if not more so."

Nevertheless, Lopes feels upbeat about the long-term future - provided the government announces an election date soon.

"Elections will offer us a solution, we hope, because this government doesn't listen when we tell it that it's doing badly. We hope that a new government will have more responsibility; more accountability," he said.

The opposition is calling for elections in 2005, but the government is suggesting that 2006 would be a more feasible date.

While there is some frustration at the glacial pace of change, there is also an understanding that after such a long war, creating a durable peace was and is a great achievement, and that the country cannot overcome its problems overnight.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

Date: 31 Mar 2004

Humanitarian Situation in Angola: Quarterly Analysis Jan - Mar 2004

[Excerpts only. The full report is available on]

This report was written with the assistance and collaboration of the United Nations Agencies in Angola


Heavy rains, broken bridges, mud and mine infestation impeded most of the humanitarian activities in the provinces and up to 70 percent of Angola was not accessible. Rains destroyed crops in rural areas of the Planalto central and some rapid assessments indicate that up to 80 percent of some crops in certain municipalities were wiped out. ....

Two years after the signing of the Luena Memorandum of Understanding, nearly all IDPs [Internally Displaced Persons] have returned to their area of origin and those who haven't returned have most likely decided to remain with their host communities. Of the 3.8 million internally displaced people at the war's end, an estimated 100,000 can still be considered internally displaced. The challenges are far from over ... Restoring livelihoods, health and normal social lives will be challenging in areas where water and sanitation facilities are inadequate (if they exist at all), health posts and schools are unmanned and undersupplied and too few community-based projects are in place to assist the resettlement of the returning population.

Despite various breakthroughs at the central level - notably, the adoption by the government of a Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper and the constructive dialogue with the World Bank and the IMF - the transition seems to be on a hold. The population has yet to see the dividends of the end of the hostilities and is beginning to express its growing frustration. The path to recovery is a very long one and is regrettably being slowed down by the absence of integrated community-based projects by both the government and international organizations. ......

Access and Coordination

The majority of internal return movements are now completed and OCHA's already extended mandate to be the focal point for emergency humanitarian coordination has almost expired. The decision to scale down OCHA's in-country capacity was based upon many months of negotiations in 2003 and early 2004 ...

A joint assessment mission went to Cabinda for the first time in almost one year. No significant critical needs have been identified since the population is able to cope with the number of IDPs and returnees in the province. On the issue of the Human Rights abuses, the population confirmed the allegations of the indiscriminate use of excessive force that were made in recent public reports. The situation has slightly improved since the change of military command in October 2003.

The success of the Coordination Humanitarian Group in January showed good cohesion and coordination between humanitarian actors and the Government. Likewise the combined efforts of all partners to ensure an almost countrywide distribution of seeds and tools at the end of 2003 and the long-term strategy concerning the Provincial Mine Action Plans give reasons to be optimistic. Conversely the lack of debate within civil society over the Government's Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper, the slowness in reaching agreement on the substance of United Nations Development Assistance Framework and ongoing concerns over the handling of 'cross cutting' themes give reason for concern within the sphere of the coordination of humanitarian efforts. ...

Food Security

Overall, the situation is better than previous years due to increased access to arable land and the wider availability of agricultural inputs. In many parts of the country, especially the northern part, the results of the agricultural campaign will be in line with the expectations. Except for regional problems linked to the extremes of nature, such as heavy rains on the Central Plateau and a drought in the South, the situation is on the whole showing an improvement.

... close to half a million planned beneficiaries did not receive their monthly rations in the early part of the first quarter of 2004. ... Given the weak pipeline situation, WFP is not in a position to take on any additional caseload. On the contrary, the recent halving of a contribution to WFP by the US Government, and its restriction on the use of commodities in support of specific activities (emergency and support to return and resettlement only) will have immediate consequences at field level for the WFP operation in the second quarter of 2004. Not only will the per capita rations have to be cut with immediate effect as of the second quarter of 2004, but WFP will also have to drastically decrease its identified caseload,

Public Health

During this reporting period Government launched the most important health initiative of peacetime Angola, stating their aim to reduce child mortality by 50 percent and maternal mortality by 30 percent by 2008.The Government's plan remains under elaboration and is not yet operational. UNICEF and WHO are working with the Ministry of Health (MoH/MINSA) to support the elaboration of this plan.

In most provinces the health authorities' major concern is organising and rebuilding the peripheral health network. Health action is moving timidly from provincial to municipal levels, however there remains an accumulation of health personnel at provincial level, while the municipalities lack resources. ...

In collaboration with the MINSA, UN agencies, and many NGOs a consensus of opinion at the February Public Health Methodological meeting was observed. It is the first time that health workers from an array of different programmes have met for a single joint event. ...

A number of snapshots on the HIV situation in Angola indicate a rapid increase in HIV prevalence. A recent WHO/MoH sentinel surveillance study in Cunene shows a prevalence rate of 12,9% among pregnant women. This extremely high rate, compared with those recorded in other parts of the country, is due to its position as a border region with high level of population movement and intensive inter-regional and international transport. A report from four Voluntary Counselling and Testing clinics in Luanda that are managed by GOAL and IPMP (funded by UNICEF, USAID and CDC) shows that out of 14,000 people tested for HIV during 2003, 10.4% were HIV positive. The female group showed an almost double infection rate compared to the male group, pointing out the high vulnerability of women to HIV/AIDS infection. ....

The President of the Republic inaugurated a hospital for HIV/AIDS patients in March. The hospital shall have the capacity to provide necessary services to HIV/AIDS patients, including ARV treatment, free of charge. This is an important step in the Government's response to step up the provision of holistic care to people living with HIV/AIDS. The Angolan Country Coordinating Mechanism finished its application for the 4th round of proposals for the Global Fund to fight TB, AIDS and Malaria. The HIV/AIDS component amounts to 91 million USD for a five-year period. ...



The plight of the 'Garimperos' frequently hit the headlines in the national press as police and FAA operations pushed forward with activities aimed at stopping illegal trading in diamonds and curving the activities of illegal immigrants in the border areas. Whilst the aim of the operation is legitimate its implementation has given rise to concerns due to reports of excesses of force being used by the authorities. Likewise in Luanda, street venders in a number of markets were moved on by the authorities as part of a campaign to 'clean up' the streets. In both cases a lack of alternatives will probably compel the offenders to attempt to return to these activities. Spontaneous riots against the authorities in Cafunfo and Viana demonstrate the ease at which civil frustration can spiral into civil unrest. At the same time the response of the police in such cases needs to remain appropriate to the situation that confronts them. In a few communities political discrimination has been reported against returnee populations although this is not considered to be a trend or common practice. ...


The first quarter of 2004 was highlighted by a jump in student numbers of almost one million. This followed the Government's recruitment of 29,000 new teachers. This increase was the largest (per capita) jump in primary education enrolment in Africa in 2004.

These leaps forward followed the Ministry of Education and UNICEF's 2003 Back to School campaign, which aimed to transform the common conviction about the right of Education for All, while at the same time adding stability and value to post-war lives.

However, these increases occurred in unavoidably weak post-war conditions. Sixty percent of teachers only completed grade 8 at school; students and teachers lack basic learning and teaching materials (UNICEF has been able to provide material for less than 9% of the new class groups, and the MoE just 7%); classrooms are often without doors and windows; up to 30% of new students do not speak the national language; and most new school enrolments (mostly outside the capital of the municipalities) were only for children in the first four grades, leaving hundreds of thousands of adolescents still in need of education. UNICEF envisaged these problems to be part of the massive push for scale that occurred following the success of the Back to School campaign. With support, UNICEF is now committed to raising standards of teaching and teaching environments, nationwide. At the central level, new materials have been produced for teachers, who are also being given additional training, and supervisors are in the process of being recruited.

To boost the quality of teaching across Angola, in January UNICEF launched the first phase of the PLANCAD (National Capacity Building), training 18,400 (those under qualified) teachers (over 10 days) and distributing 70,000 training materials for these teachers. UNICEF is planning to implement the second phase in May (and the third in August), giving additional training to these 18,400 new teachers. The three trainings are specifically designed to prepare under qualified teachers, preparing them to use groups, to build conversation, to prepare documents, and facilitate problem solving in their class environments. ...

AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

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