20 July 2001

ANGOLA: Fighting intensifies in highlands

Feeding the hungry in Angola's central highlands continues to be impeded by the poor state of the runway in the provincial capital Kuito and escalating fighting, aid workers told IRIN.

Two years after a deal was struck to fix Kuito's landing strip, it still remains in a severe state of disrepair. Eleven flights a day are needed to transport enough relief supplies for the needy in Kuito and the rest of Bie Province. But, according to World Food Programme, only six to seven are landing.

Meanwhile, fighting between government troops and UNITA rebels in Cuemba to the northeast has displaced thousands of people. They began to head south to Camacupa in large numbers in March, overwhelming local services. On 3 July, WFP delivered 111 tons of food to 14.211 internally displaced persons in Camacupa, a mere half of what is deemed necessary. "In addition, people arriving have no shelter, few are clothed beyond essential coverings, and none are wearing shoes," WFP said this week in its latest situation update. Temperatures in the central highlands range between 18C during the day to 4C at night.

As fighting intensifies, an additional 13.000 people are expected to arrive in Camacupa from Cuemba within the next few weeks, mostly escorted by the Angolan Armed Forces (FAA). Adding to their plight, there are allegations that as the security situation deteriorates, the FAA has turned to using civilians as human shields. "There is a clear cut use of people by the military," a diplomatic source told IRIN. "The government is actually herding people into Cuemba and Camacupa to use as shields and to prevent logistical supplies reaching UNITA." (IRIN)

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