• Huambo, 1994. Unloading food from the European Community delivered by an ICRC Hercules.
      © ICRC / T. Gassmann / ao-n-00303-32

    "Generations of delegates were initiated into relief work in Angola. It involved a huge logistical operation with constant flights back and forth by Hercules and DC-10 transports. I remember how frustrating it was to was to wait and wait in the early morning while transport planes carrying other supplies than humanitarian aid were cleared to take off first."

    Catherine Gendre, delegate in 1993, deputy head of delegation 2001-02

    On 14 October 1987, an ICRC flight ended tragically. The organization's Hercules, carrying 20 tonnes of seed for the people of Bie province, crashed near Kuito. The six persons on board were killed (Catherine Chappuis, delegation secretary, Nuno Ferreira, an Angolan staff member, and the four crew members: Dorian Shone, Kevin Tocknell, Nicolas Duff and Gary Heap) as well as a woman and her baby on the ground.

  • Photo, Kuito. fFood distribution in a transit camp, 1982
    • Kuito. Food distribution in a transit camp, 1982
      © ICRC / ao-n-00083-30

    "The commitment of my Angolan colleagues and friends was inestimable. It outweighed he hunger that gnawed at their own children day in and day out. Despite the malnutrition affecting their own families, they watched over the correct use of the ICRC's food aid with strict attention, taking profound offense when any supplies went missing along their hazardous way to the people who most needed them."

    Brigitte Meng Comninos, delegate,1980-81

  • Photo, Bomba Alta, Huambo, 1980. ICRC-supported limb-fitting and rehabilitation centre.

    "I remember the radiant smile of a little girl who was out testing her new prostheses at the Bomba Alta limb-fitting centre. It was a matter of honour for her to show her mother and the technician that she could manage them, no matter how difficult it was for her to walk. She must have been 11 or so. She had certainly known war and she had her whole life in front of her. Her life, but not her legs."

    Catherine Gendre, delegate 1993, deputy head of delegation 2001-02

  • Photo, Huambo, near the nutritional centre. A well repaired by the ICRC, 1995.

    The ICRC first began working in Huambo in 1975, when it brought relief and medical supplies. But it was not until 1979 that the organization established a constant presence in the city.

  • Photo, Huambo. Fighting destroyed much of the city

    “In 1999, the first time we used the delegation bunker under UNITA* shelling, one of our Angolan colleagues named Nimy stayed with us. I told him to join his family but he said he would stay with us to try and protect us from UNITA fighters if they entered the city. I have never in my life had greater respect for a person than at that moment. In the days that followed, other Angolan colleagues stayed with us. We were all very moved.”

    Carlos Batallas, head of Huambo sub-delegation 1998 -99


    * UNITA: National Union for the Total Independence of Angola

  • Photo, Huambo, Calomanda. Delivering a Red Cross message, 2002

    Rosalia receives a Red Cross message from her husband. This Angola Red Cross volunteer managed to find Rosalia only after an hour of looking door to door.

    "At major aid distributions 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. Within minutes we collected thousands of messages."


    Joachim Chinguto Saundi, ICRC staff member in Huambo


    Since 2002, almost 230,000 Red Cross messages have been delivered and over 203,000 collected in the country, enabling thousands of people to find missing loved ones.

  • Photo, ICRC delegation, Luanda, 1994. A man checking the list of people with messages awaiting them.

    Normal; One of its last actions before scaling back its work in Angola was when the ICRC reunited a boy with his mother in Mussende, about 400 km south-west of the capital Luanda.

    Serafim and his mother lost touch with each in 1998. He asked the ICRC for help in 2007, and a year later, the Angola Red Cross and the ICRC located his mother, who was eagerly awaiting his return. "I thought I would never see my mother again. It's like a miracle," said Serafim.

    Serafim is one of thousands of children who were separated from their families between 1975 and 2002. Since the end of the war, the ICRC and the Angola Red Cross have resolved the cases of over 2,000 missing people, reunited more than 750 people with their families and handled 433,000 Red Cross messages.

  • Photo, Huambo, Bimbe, 1991. ICRC delegates speak with UNITA combatants.

    Besides tracing and reuniting families, the ICRC has been involved in various other activities in Angola such as medical care, physical rehabilitation, water and sanitation services, detainee welfare, protecting the civilian population, and promoting international humanitarian law among weapon bearers.

  • Photo, Mongo, 1985. A man carries a sack of flour following a Red Cross food distribution.

    "Nowadays the National Red Cross or Red Crescent Society typically takes the lead in situations requiring humanitarian action within the country's borders. The Angola Red Cross has a vast pool of volunteers and staff who will continue to help those in need."

    Maryse Limoner, head of delegation 2007-09

  • Photo, Kuito, 1995. A landmine victim.

    For nearly three decades, the ICRC supported three limb-fitting and rehabilitation centres in Angola. Since the first one opened in Huambo in 1979, the centres have produced 32,000 artificial limbs, enabling thousands of amputees to walk again and resume an active life.

    In 2008, the ICRC handed over its physical rehabilitation programme for landmine victims to the Ministry of Health and closed its sub-delegation in Huambo.

  • Photo, Kuito, camp for displaced persons. Children in front of a wrecked tank.

    "The direct consequences of the internal conflict, which ended in 2002, have considerably diminished. So today it's no longer necessary for the ICRC to maintain a constant presence in Angola. Nevertheless, we'll monitor the situation closely from our delegation in Pretoria. The population's needs will be met by others – for example by the Angolan authorities, to whom the ICRC turned over limb-fitting equipment which had been imported for use in the three centres it supported, and the Angola Red Cross, which now runs the family-links programme. We have done everything we can to ensure a smooth transition."

    Maryse Limoner, head of delegation 2007-09

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