TITLE=ANGOLA / HUNGER
INTRO: The humanitarian situation in Angola has
deteriorated dramatically. Hundreds of thousands of
Angolans displaced by civil war are now threatened not
only by violent death, but also by starvation.
Southern Africa Correspondent Alex Belida has just
been to the besieged provincial capital of Malange,
where an estimated one-thousand people have been
killed by shelling this year and where up to 10-people
die daily from hunger. He filed this report.
/// SOUNDS FROM FEEDING CENTER FOR
STARVING CHILDREN ///
The dull thud of artillery fire in the distance is
drowned out by the cries of malnourished children.
But these children, about 300 of them packed into a
shabby concrete building in the center of Malange, are
the lucky ones -- at least they are getting emergency
food and medical attention from international relief
/// SINGING CHILDREN - FADE UNDER ///
Aid workers at the facility, Angolan and foreign
alike, often prompt the children to sing for visitors,
an almost surreal experience. But it is meant to be a
spirit-building exercise to help them pass the time
between feedings of high-energy porridge and biscuits.
Most of the children take part, clutching their
plastic plates and tin spoons.
But others lay listlessly, too weak to even lift their
heads. Some of the sickest are mere stick figures,
near death when they arrived at the center. Others
show the grotesque swelling associated with some types
of malnutrition. Many have faces so drawn and gaunt
they look like old men and women.
Children like these who reach one of the feeding
centers scattered around Malange have a good chance of
surviving. But the city's Roman Catholic Bishop, Luis
Maria Perez de Onraita, estimates an average of 10
people have been starving to death every day in recent
months. That is because Malange has been virtually
cut off by fighting between Angolan government troops
and forces of the UNITA rebel movement, making aid
deliveries by air or road an uncertain and risky
/// BISHOP ACT - IN PORTUGUESE - FADE
The Bishop appeals to the world to come to the aid of
Malange and Angola's other besieged provincial
capitals. He says that what he calls the "bomb of
hunger" is now claiming even more lives than the
artillery shells that still target the city.
Responding to such appeals, the United Nations World
Food Program recently managed to deliver a huge
shipment of food aid to Malange. But officials
concede it is still far too little to ensure the
continued survival of the more than 200-thousand
people packed in and around the battle-scarred city.
/// SOUNDS FROM DISPLACED CAMP - FADE
Those who could, have fled to Angola's capital,
Luanda, about 400-kilometers to the west. But others
arrive from rural areas daily, forced from their farms
by fighting, often threading their way through
minefields in hopes of reaching safety.
At one dilapidated, abandoned factory building on the
outskirts of Malange, aid workers find a group of new
arrivals. They include three visibly malnourished
orphaned children, aged two, three, and six, who sit,
silently, staring intently at a pot containing a
handful of corn cooking over a tiny fire.
Francesco Strippoli is the W-F-P's director in Angola.
He calls the situation "fragile" and says if the
current food aid pipeline is cut, there will be a
catastrophe. He knows the pain of the suffering
children of Malange, having held a starving boy in his
arms during a visit to the city.
/// STRIPPOLI ACT ///
He (the child) was so light that I could not
believe he was a two year (old) child. He was
not heavier than four, five kilos. The only
emotion I have is you can never get used to this
picture. The emotions come violently in your
heart, and you cry.
/// END ACT ///
/// SOUNDS OF CRYING CHILD - FADE UNDER
This may well be the worst place in the world to be a
child. Infant mortality rates are staggering. Three
out of every 10 children born in Angola will not
survive to their fifth birthdays. And the numbers are
Humanitarian groups say more aid is urgently needed to
ease the misery and suffering brought on by a more
than two-decade old conflict often labeled "Africa's
But the Angolan government, fearing questions about
how it spends its plentiful oil and diamond revenues,
blocked an effort by United Nations agencies to stage
a public Security Council meeting this week to
highlight the country's plight.
As for the rebel UNITA movement, its leader, Jonas
Savimbi, said in a recent interview that reports of a
humanitarian crisis in Angola were - in his words - "a
big lie." (Signed)
24-Aug-1999 08:15 AM LOC (24-Aug-1999 1215 UTC)
Source: Voice of America
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