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MSF Therapeutic Feeding Centers in Bailundo, Angola, Still Treating Many Extremely Malnourished Children
August 6, 2002
Five months after a truce ended nearly three decades of war, a severe crisis continues in Angola and the immediate future for hundreds of thousands of civilians remains precarious, according to the international medical relief organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). The situation requires the sustained mobilization of emergency assistance.
A therapeutic feeding center (TFC) run by MSF in Bailundo municipality, in the central province of Huambo, is currently treating more than 700 severely malnourished children.
"In every town and village we've visited in Bailundo, at least 7% of the children have been severely malnourished," said Thierry Allafort-Duverger, Emergency Program Director for MSF in Angola. "It's just a matter of survival for the people in this region."
The number of severely malnourished children is declining in some areas (the TFC in Caala, for example, currently treats 230 children), but MSF teams are still trying to reach remote locations where there is word of more displaced people. Getting to those areas, though, has proven difficult: mines, destroyed bridges, and threats of armed robbery constantly hamper access.
Despite the gravity of the situation, aid distribution in many areas has been inadequate.
"People are hungry and cold. They are sick," said Allafort-Duverger. "The aid brought in so far is largely insufficient: an irregular food aid that only covers a meager part of the affected zones, little or no access to health care, nothing to clothe themselves or cover themselves during the night. The vast majority of displaced people have not received seeds and tools to cultivate their land. So their survival at least until next April depends entirely on outside assistance."
MSF has also vaccinated nearly 50,000 children throughout the country against measles since April 2002, because a measles outbreak in such a hungry and sick population would be catastrophic.
MSF has been present in Angola since 1983, and currently has 174 international volunteers and 2,200 national staff. Their operations in Angola are the largest the group is undertaking in the world today.