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Angola: helping armed-conflict victims in Huambo for more than 30 years

16-12-2008 News Release 08/236

Luanda / Geneva (ICRC) – After 30 years of aid work, the sub-delegation of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Huambo, approximately 600 kilometres south-east of the capital Luanda, will close this month.

  ©ICRC/ao-n-00412-03/R. Sidler    
Huambo, April 2000. Nutritional assessment.    
  ©ICRC/ao-e-00068/T. Gassmann    
Cruzeiro, Huambo, October 2002. Food rations being distributed to 1,500 families to tide them over for six weeks.    

The sub-delegation was primarily involved in efforts to restore contact between family members separated from one another by the conflict. It also helped the Angola Red Cross to boost its capacity and to develop its activities to raise awareness of the danger of mines.

" The direct consequences of the internal conflict, which ended in 2002, have considerably diminished, so it is no longer necessary that the ICRC maintain a permanent presence in Huambo, " said Maryse Limoner, head of the ICRC delegation in Angola. In the absence of the ICRC, the population's needs will be met by others – in particular by the Angolan authorities, to whom the ICRC turned over limb-fitting equipment last week which had been imported for use in the three physical rehabilitation centres it supported. " We've done everything we can to ensure a smooth transition, " said Ms Limoner.

The ICRC first began working in Huambo in 1975 when it brought relief items and medical equipment to what was then a conflict-affected area. But it was not until 1979 that the ICRC established a permanent presence in the city. At the end of the 1980s, Angola was the ICRC's biggest operation in Africa. The various fields of activity in which the organization was involved there included medical assistance, physical rehabilitation, water and sanitation, protection of the civilian population, visits to places of detention, and promotion of international humanitarian law among weapon bearers.

" At major aid distributions that we organized during the war, we explained to the people that they could send Red Cross messages to members of their families they had lost contact with, " recalled Joachim Chinguto Saundi, who worked for the ICRC in Huambo for 13 years. " Within minutes, we collected thousands of messages! " Almost 230,000 Red Cross messages have been distributed and more than 209,000 collected in the country since 2002, enabling thousands of people to find their loved ones.

" For once, there is good news, " said Ms Limoner. " In humanitarian terms, the direct consequences of the war are coming to an end. Life is returning to normal in this part of Africa. " The ICRC now has only 58 staff in Angola, mainly in Luanda. It is carrying out its work in fewer areas of the country, while others, such as the Angola Red Cross, take over.

  For further information, please contact:
  Maryse Limoner, ICRC Luanda, tel: +244 222 264 454
  Anna Schaaf, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 2271 or +41 79 217 32 17