Angolans face threat of severe malnutritionBMJ 2000; 320 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.320.7226.8/a (Published 01 January 2000) Cite this as: BMJ 2000;320:8
Despite the Angolan government's recent military successes against the Unita rebels, there has been little respite in the suffering of the civilian population of Angola, and the situation is likely to deteriorate rapidly once again if sufficient assistance is not forthcoming.
A major concern continues to be malnutrition in many areas. Although there has been an improvement in certain provinces—such as Malange, where malnutrition rates have gone down from 32%in June to 22%in September—the outlook for much of the country remains extremely poor.
Unicef nutritionist PeterHailey explains: “The nutritional situation of vulnerable groups in Angola continued to worsen throughout 1999, peaking around June and July. In the last months of 1999 the situation has improved but remains extremely worrying.
“The improvement has been due to a number of factors, principally the relatively improved access for humanitarian aid. In recent weeks the intensity of the fighting has also reduced. However, several factors also point towards a continuation of high levels of malnutrition,” Mr Hailey said.
“Some of the most intense fighting took place during the planting season. The resulting displacement of large numbers of people and reduced access to land points towards a greatly reduced harvest next year. We are moving into the ‘hungerseason’ during which access to food is usually lower.
Therefore the recent improvements may not continue in the coming months. Indeed they may actually deteriorate unless access to humanitarian aid and freedom of movement improve. Vulnerable groups in all parts of the country will be facing the threat of severe malnutrition and increased child mortality,” he added.
Recent screening in the town of Negage indicates a malnutrition rate of 40%The hospital has insufficient beds for all the patients, despite children sleeping three to a cot. Many of the children are suffering from both acute and chronic malnutrition.
The widespread laying of landmines and war-induced population movement has meant that less than 4%of the land is cultivated.