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Funding shortage hits UNHCR's Angola programme

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Funding shortage hits UNHCR's Angola programme

6 June 1997

UNHCR said today lack of funding may force the suspension or reduction of activities in Angola for the repatriation of more than 300,000 Angolan refugees.

In February, UNHCR issued an appeal for $38.2 million to fund programmes for the return and integration of refugees this year. As of 3 June, donor contributions had totalled only $4.6 million. UNHCR had to draw $3 million from its voluntary repatriation fund to finance activities.

"Because of the slow donor response, we will now have to consider closing down field offices in Angola," said Nicolas Bwakira, UNHCR's regional director for southern Africa.

"This means that the critical work we are doing to promote repatriation will be suspended or drastically reduced. The return of the refugees is a key component of the peace process. Our inability to bring about repatriation may set back the timetable for peace."

Nearly 93,000 Angolan refugees have returned spontaneously to their country since 1995 after UNHCR launched its repatriation programme. This followed a peace accord signed in November 1994 that ended 20 years of civil war. The conflict claimed more than 600,000 lives and forced 3 million others from their homes.

Angolan refugees number 200,000 in the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire), 96,000 in Zambia, 12,000 in Congo (Brazzaville) and 1,000 in Namibia. Another 15,000 are in 32 other countries.

UNHCR has a field presence in nine locations in Angola and has supported seven non-governmental agencies. It has constructed or repaired roads, hospitals, health clinics, water points, schools and sanitation facilities. Returnees have been provided with shelter materials, kitchen sets, seeds, tools and food.

Significant gains have been achieved since the signing of the peace accord, particularly in the quartering and demobilization of fighters and in the formation of a government of national unity and reconstruction. However, the slow movement toward political normalcy has dampened donor interest.