June 13, 2002

MSF-statement sparks controversy with UN

A scorched earth programme of war has resulted in thousands of Angolans dying of hunger, now a war of words has broken out between humanitarian agencies over the response to the crisis.

On Tuesday, June 11, Medecins Sans Fronteires (MSF) released a statement in Luanda which lambasted the Angolan government and the United Nations for being "unacceptably slow to respond to the urgent humanitarian needs of at least half a million Angolans". The MSF statement said: " While some food is being provided to families in the UNITA quartering areas in accordance with the ceasefire agreement, the government response is close to non-existent for civilians in the former war zones. Slow visa and customs procedures in Angola have seriously blocked the work of aid agencies trying to assist these populations."

The MSF statement also went on the criticise the UN's Organisation for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). "OCHA, despite private declarations that Angola is facing the worst humanitarian disaster in Africa today, has allowed political wrangling over the demobilisation process to take precedence over the urgent needs of the Angolan population," MSF claimed.

The United Nations has rejected the claims, however: "The United Nations has repeatedly drawn public attention to the crisis in the country and has worked without stop to increase the amount of support for humanitarian operations from the government and donors," the UN said on Wednesday, June12 in a statement signed by its Humanitarian Coordinator in Angola, Erick de Mulin. "The MSF statement is wrong on many points and the accusation of indifference by the UN to the humanitarian crisis in Angola is blatantly incorrect. MSF has missed the key point at this crucial juncture...The UN does not have, at present, sufficient resources to launch programmes, including general food distributions, to meet all of the needs."

Correspondents say despite its mineral wealth, much of Angola is in ruins

after almost three decades of civil war. (THE NEWS, IRIN)

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