April 1, 2003

Over 1.7 million refugees return home, but diseases increase at camps

More than 1.7 million internally displaced persons (IDP) have returned home since peace was achieved in the country in April last year. This was announced on Tuesday, April 1, in Luanda by social welfare Minister Joao Baptista Kussumua, who pointed out the provinces of Bie, Huambo, Huila, Kwanza-Sul and Malange as the largest recipients.

In a brief account of the humanitarian situation in the last 12 months of peace in the country, the minister said that although still requiring a special attention the situation has made significant progress. Also leaving the sheltering camps for the areas of preference or destination have been 38,218 demobilised soldiers and 117,004 dependants totalling 153,222 people (about 42 per cent of total). It is estimated that about 300,000 families have been relocated corresponding to a total of approximately two million people, three times the number predicted in the resettlement programme approved by the Government last year (550,000). Many of these people left for their areas of origin spontaneously.

Despite the poor condition of roads and bridges, the Government managed to provide some 2,000 tons of food aid and 2,500 tons of non food aid to populations in the most critical regions. At present, Angola has about 2.3 million IDP's of which 270,000 remain at the camps or transit centres. The provinces of Bie, Huila, Huambo, Kuando-Kubango, Malanje and Kwanza-Sul show the largest concentrations of displaced persons. In the same period, about 120,000 Angolan refugees have spontaneously returned from the neigbouring countries and settled in different provinces mainly in Kuando-Kubango, Moxico, Uige and Zaire.

But at the displaced people camps countrywide, the number of cases of malaria, diarrhoeas and respiratory diseases have been increasing, due to lack of basic sanitation and drinkable water, a source with the UN has disclosed. A report on the humanitarian situation says that 39 per cent of 2.152 people who received medical treatment at Cazombo district, in the Eastern Moxico Province, in February, are affected of malaria and 21 per cent of respiratory diseases. Cases of intestinal paralysis, sexual transmissible and allergic diseases have been recorded in that locality where there are not health centres, added the source.

In Bimbe locality in Bailundo city, in the Central Bie Province, 260 people died since October 2002, including 109 children from zero do five years old. The sicknesses are the same which affect people in Moxico. There are also so many people suffering from ill-nutrition, said the source. There are also so many cases of ill-nutrition in Mungo, ex-Finge and Chiteta localities. Meanwhile, in Huila province the main cause of deaths during the month of February were malaria, measles, diarroheas and respiratory diseases. The health authorities said that there medicine shortage. According to the source, the UN office to Angola has been concerned as the access to some areas is so difficult, due to the state of the roads, bridges and the existence of mines. (Angola Press Agency, Luanda)

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