April 25, 2002

Worst Malnutrition in Past Decade Found in Areas Long Cut Off From Aid

Kuito/New York, April 26, 2002 — Malnutrition witnessed by Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) among people emerging from the war zones in Angola is among the worst seen in Africa in the past decade. These areas had been cut off from medical and food aid since 1998 when the civil war intensified, and are only now becoming accessible due to the recent cease-fire agreements.

Displaced people arriving in Kuito from Chitembo in southern Bie province are severely malnourished. The latest data shows 26% global acute malnutrition and 9% severe malnutrition, figures that exceed the emergency threshold. These people are now being admitted to MSF's therapeutic feeding centers (TFC's) in Kuito.* Alarming rates of malnutrition are also being reported by MSF teams in the southern province of Huambo. In Bunjei, 116 km away from Caala, medical staff found the level of severe malnutrition to be 30%, while in Chilembo, a rapid nutritional survey conducted among 1,219 children under 10 years of age revealed 42% global malnutrition and 10% severe malnutrition. The number of deaths (5-10/ 10,000 people/day) is well above the emergency threshold (1/10,000/day).

Additional data collected by screening the newly arrived displaced from Chitembo (southern Bie province) indicate 26% global acute malnutrition and 9% severe malnutrition, well above the emergency level. These figures confirm the alarming situation already witnessed by MSF over the past weeks in the southern province of Huambo. In Bunjei, 116 km away from Caala, our medical staff has found a 30% severe malnutrition level, while in Chilembo the fast nutritional survey conducted over 1219 children under 10 years revealed 42% global malnutrition and 10% severe malnutrition. Between 5 and 14 people a day die of malnutrition on a population of 10.000, well above the emergency threshold of a death per day.

"These shocking figures are the emerging tip of a crisis that has ravaged many Angolan regions after the resumption of the war. The recent peace agreements alone cannot improve the situation. They have allowed us to get emergency teams into the area but there must now be an immediate, international response with food and medical supplies," said Koen Henckaerts, Director of Operations for MSF.

The ongoing nutritional emergency in the country is a direct result of the fact that populations in several areas of the country have been cut off from humanitarian assistance for the past several years while no negotiated access was pursued by the warring parties in Angola. This emergency is also a direct consequence of the military strategies employed by both sides involved in the conflict. Residents were forcibly displaced, and their houses and villages burned to the ground, because the main objective of the parties to the conflict was control over the civilian population.

MSF believes that a major international relief effort is required to meet the scale of the emerging needs in Angola. A team of MSF volunteers is currently conducting a second assessment of the displaced population in Chitembo. MSF is increasing the capacity of the feeding centers in Kuito as more people are expected to arrive in search of food and assistance.

* The southern part of Bie province has not been accessible for humanitarian assistance since the resumption of war in 1998. This is the first time an international humanitarian organization has been able to access Chitembo. High numbers of individuals in a very bad medical and nutritional state have also been reported in northern Huila province, bordering Chitembo municipality.