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Angola: Reducing infant mortality

24-02-2000 News Release 00/06

The ICRC is this week launching a water and sanitation programme in camps for displaced people in the Angolan city of Kuito. In response to an alarming rise in infant mortality in the second half of 1999 (according to information gathered in January, 2.6 children out of 10,000 were dying each day), the ICRC, Médecins sans frontières and other humanitarian organizations carried out nutritional, medical and sanitary surveys to identify the cause. They concluded that the main problems were the shortage and poor quality of water, poor hygiene and the under-use of existing health-care facilities.

The ICRC has therefore begun distributing 121,000 litres of water daily in the four biggest camps. This amounts to four litres per person per day. The supply will be continued until work has been completed by other organizations to sink wells.

The ICRC's response to the hygiene problems combines drainage work, the building of 1,000 latrines (with the help of the displaced people themselves), a monthly distribution of soap to 20,000 families and a sanitary education programme carried out in conjunction with the Angola Red Cross. A study will also be carried out to determine why more use is not being made of health-care facilities.

Since December 1998, Kuito has faced a massive influx of displaced people — some 116,000 so far — who are living in 18 camps, for the most part situated on a hill that makes for particularly poor hygiene conditions during the rainy season.