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Update No. 99/01 on the activities of the ICRC in Angola

07-01-1999 Operational Update

At the beginning of December 1998, as might be recalled, fierce fighting erupted on the Planalto between the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA ) and government forces, particularly in Huambo and Kuito. While fighting around Kuito has become less intense within the last few days, Huambo town was shelled for the first time on 30 December 1998. Tension there has risen owing to the arrival of tens of thousands of internally displaced persons. Conflict also escalated at the beginning of this week around the town of Malanje.

Information about the humanitarian consequences is still scarce. Assessments have been made and others are still under way in Huambo. Relief stocks in Huambo and Kuito were sufficient to meet the first emergency needs. It is still too early to gauge the situation in Malanje. The main concern now is access to all conflict areas and the forwarding of urgently needed relief goods.  

    

Access to conflict areas by air is particularly complex at present. The airports of Huambo and Kuito are officially open. However, a United Nations chartered C-130 Hercules aircraft crashed after takeoff from Huambo on 26 December 1998. A second United Nations chartered aircraft also went down in the same area on 2 January 1999. The United Nations subsequently suspended all flights and, following an escalation in fighting, took the decision to withdraw its staff from combat zones to Luanda.

In view of the complexity of the situation, the ICRC is maintaining contact with both parties to the conflict in order to get the necessary security guarantees to operate internal flights. The ICRC is however confident that it will resume such flights soon. It has maintained its staff in Huambo and is ready to deploy additional staff to Kuito and other trouble areas, such as Malanje.

 Further Humanitarian Response of the ICRC  

Preliminary assessments of the situation concerning newly displaced persons in Huambo have revealed shortages. Non-food relief goods such as tarpaulins, blankets, jerrycans, pots, soap and logistical means are being mobilized and conveyed to Angola from the ICRC logistical bases in Nairobi and Geneva. Warehousing has been rented. Two logistics officers have also left for the field to receive incoming relief goods and organize their immediate dispatch to the field.

ICRC emergency stocks from Lobito were also transported to Huambo by a World Food Programme (WFP) aircraft on 2 January 1999. Distribution of ICRC non-food relief goods to some 250 families (2,600 of the most vulnerable people) started in Huambo town this week. The WFP is also distributing food in Huambo. UNICEF provided bladder tanks which the ICRC fills daily with 13,000 litres of safe drinking water.

Further evaluations have now also revealed needs in the medical sector, in particular medical supplies for the treatment of the war-wounded. Recently, for instance, the staff at the hospital in Huambo had to cope with the influx of 70 civilian war-wounded. The ICRC immediately provided the hospital with medical assistance for the treatment of these casualties. More wounded people are expected. Shortages will possibly also have to be covered in the towns of Kuito and other crit ical areas. The ICRC has therefore decided to mobilize sufficient first-aid/resuscitation medical supplies and surgical material for the treatment of 500 war-wounded people. The supplies will be airlifted from Nairobi to Angola still this week.