September 19, 2002
According to Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), a complete lack of food at reception areas in Matungo and Capembe in Angola's southern province of Cuando Cubango has spurred nearly 10,000 people to make their way to the town of Mavinga, nearly 50 kilometers away.
The isolated village deep in the province is completely surrounded by landmines, and has little save a battered airstrip and dusty roads connecting it to the rest of the country. A direct, clean water supply is urgently needed as 10 people have already died from shigella, or bloody diarrhea. What water is being brought in is not enough for the people who were there before the recent influx, and with so many new arrivals, the situation is likely to get far worse.
MSF Epicentre epidemiologist, Thomas Grein, was conducting a mortality survey in the region, dubbed "o fin do mundo" or "end of the world" by the Portuguese, when the mass exodus started two weeks ago. "News spread through the quartering areas that people should move to Mavinga where the food is," he said. "We saw hundreds of people start walking in single file down the road carrying bundles on their heads."
Mavinga is already home to 10,000 displaced people, and the international community has been slow to react. General food distributions remain largely insufficient and irregular, but it is the only area where people know there is any food.
The airstrip was closed recently because of the discovery of anti-tank mines. Yet there are no de-mining agencies working in the entire region, which is known to be one of the most heavily mined in the country.
"We need more realistic support such as new trucks to deliver the food and we need some serious water and sanitation intervention before a cholera epidemic spreads through the population," said Fred Meylan, MSF's Head of Mission in Angola. "Above all we need de-mining agencies to start surveying the area so that we can reach isolated populations and work safely."
Currently, MSF is treating nearly 300 severely malnourished people at a therapeutic feeding center (TFC) in Mavinga and providing food to thousands of moderately malnourished at three supplemental feeding centers (SFCs). MSF staff have also vaccinated 17,466 children against measles and has provided blanket feeding for up to 10,000 people in the area.
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.
© 2013 Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)