Angola: UNHCR relief operation in north at a virtual standstill
The UNHCR relief operation in northern Angola, which began just weeks ago, has virtually come to a standstill because of a deteriorating security situation. The UNHCR emergency team deployed in the main town of Angola's northern Uige province on June 19th is now confined to within a 2 km radius of Uige town, following attacks on two nearby villages, allegedly by UNITA rebels. The attacks on June 20th on the villages of Mateus and Kikaya, about 10 kms. from Uige, have made several pockets of displaced people unreachable for emergency assistance, raising the spectre of further displacement in a province which already has more than 150,000 people uprooted by civil war.
UNHCR's warehouse in Angola's capital Luanda is filled with various relief supplies, but overland transportation is difficult at best, with vehicles facing the risks of hijackings and looting. Air transport, the only feasible means of getting aid items to the northern provinces, has been blocked since last Monday by the temporary closure of the airport in Uige for maintenance. UNHCR is currently relying on WFP cargo planes, which land in Negage, 43 kms. away, to transport non-food items to the region. But onward distribution to Uige and surrounding areas is unsafe.
UNHCR dispatched emergency teams to Angola last month after a UNHCR assessment mission found displaced people living in appalling and life-threatening conditions in Angola's north-western provinces. Angola's displacement crisis worsened dramatically over the past year, as fighting intensified between government forces and UNITA rebels. Currently, 2.6 million people are believed to be displaced in Angola and 1.9 million urgently need humanitarian aid.