Starvation Fears in Besieged Angolan Town

Food Beyond the Reach of Many in Malange

New York/Luanda, July 29, 1999 — After four months of inaccessibility, teams from the international medical relief agency Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) have reached the besieged town of Malange, Angola, where they have discovered a severe nutritional crises. Severe fighting forced aid workers out of Malange, which is east of the capital Luanda, in March.

The team of seven international volunteers has already started setting up feeding centers. Tens of thousands of internally displaced people have fled to Malange for safety as fighting ravages the countryside. Many of them have nothing - no money, clothes, food, or fuel. Unconfirmed figures from the Angolan Ministry of Health indicate that 15% of people in Malange are severely malnourished, and an MSF nutritional survey, which is not yet completed, seems likely to reveal that the situation is even worse.

Erica Hazelaar, project coordinator for MSF in Malange, was shocked by what she saw. "Although there does seem to be food available in the markets, it is very expensive and beyond the reach of many people. There appear to be pockets of starvation among certain sections of the population here. It's not just access to food that's missing; there are also no medicines in the hospital. I can only think of one word to describe the situation here - despair."

The ability of aid agencies such as MSF to work in Angola is threatened by the warring parties' total lack of respect for humanitarian organizations. Following the fatal attacks on two UN planes in December and January, UN security regulations have prevented a large-scale relief effort. MSF has chartered its own freight planes and will begin aid flights of food and medical supplies on Monday.

Note for photo editors:

Photos by photographer Kadir van Lohuizen, who visited Malange with the MSF team, are available now at: Hollandse Hoogte Agency; tel: 31-20-530-6070; fax: 31-20-620-3729;

MSF is the world's largest independent international medical relief agency aiding victims of armed conflict, epidemics, and natural and man-made disasters, and others who lack health care due to geographic remoteness or ethnic marginalization in more than 80 countries.