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DATE=8/24/1999 TYPE=BACKGROUND REPORT TITLE=ANGOLA / HUNGER NUMBER=5-44117 BYLINE=ALEX BELIDA DATELINE=MALANGE, ANGOLA CONTENT= VOICED AT: 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. TEXT: /// 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 groups. /// 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 business. /// BISHOP ACT - IN PORTUGUESE - FADE UNDER /// 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 UNDER /// 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 increasing. 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 forgotten war." 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) NEB/BEL/JWH 24-Aug-1999 08:15 AM LOC (24-Aug-1999 1215 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .

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