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Angola: large-scale operation to meet widespread needs

01-05-2003 Operational Update

Covering the ICRC's activities in Angola - protection, assistance, mine action, dissemination of IHL and cooperation with partners in the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement - from January to April 2003.

 Protection: Restoring family links  

The ICRC continued to exploit the opportunities provided by the April 2002 peace agreement, which enabled it to have far greater access to war-ravaged areas of the country and to increase considerably its tracing activities in cooperation with the Angolan Red Cross (CVA). The ICRC helped the CVA to consolidate and expand its network of small tracing offices, so that by the end of April 2003 145 of them were operational in the country’s 18 provinces. In the first four months of this year, close to 51,000 Red Cross Messages were exchanged through this network, compared to about 80,000 for the whole of 2002.


During the same period, 1,920 people opened tracing requests (asking the ICRC for help in finding out what happened to their loved ones), while 148 unaccompanied children were registered (1,223 since February 2002). The use of new technology such as digital cameras is helping ICRC delegates to trace the children’s relatives. Since the beginning of 2003, it has been possible to reunite 86 children with their families (making a total of 371 since this work began in 2002). More than 700 cases are still being followed up.

In March, as a major support to these tracing activities, the ICRC published the “Gazeta”, a list of people unaccounted for and of children looking for their parents or relatives (a total of more than 3,200 names). It is hoped that the Gazeta will allow families and children to re-establish contacts with long-lost relatives. Some 1,600 copies have been distributed in Angola, Zambia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Namibia. The list can also be co nsulted on the ICRC website . It is the first time the ICRC has published a list of missing people in Africa.

 Protection: Detention  

Between January and April the ICRC carried out 21 visits to detainees at 14 locations.

 Assistance: Agriculture and food security  

The ICRC's agriculture and food security programmes are now limited to Huambo province. Since the beginning of 2003, assistance activities have focused primarily on meeting the needs of people returning to their homes, many of them after years of displacement. However, food and non-food assistance was also distributed to more than 1,000 needy resident families. Some 17,000 returning families (about 68,000 people) received non-food items and two rations of food – a measure aimed at preventing them from having to eat their seed supplies.

In April, a three months'assistance programme started in the western part of Huambo province (Ukuma municipality) for returnee families. By the end of April more than 7,300 families (22,000 beneficiaries) had received food rations and non-food items.

 Assistance: Health and nutrition  


The ICRC in Angola works in close cooperation with the ministry of health, providing assistance to 12 primary health care posts in Huambo, Bié and Uige provinces. Close to 215,000 people in t he three provinces have access to medical care through these centres and in the first four months of 2003 more than 76,000 consultations were given. In mid-March the ICRC started to provide five health posts in Jamba and Kuvango (Huila province) with essential drugs and medical supplies. More than 57,000 people are covered by these health posts and 3,600 consultations were given in April alone.

Almost 400 health education sessions were carried out by the ICRC in the same period.

The ICRC continues to support the paediatric department of Huambo central hospital where, since January, 8,370 patients have been admitted. A plan has been drawn up with the authorities to facilitate the gradual transfer of management responsibility to the local authorities and staff.

 Assistance: Water and sanitation  

In Huambo and Bié provinces, five spring catchments were renovated and two new ones constructed, for the benefit of some 15,000 people. Training is given to the population on how to maintain these facilities. A water point was constructed for Chipeta health post in Bié.

Technical services are provided to improve hygiene conditions in several camps for displaced people in Huambo and Bié provinces. Between January and March, 328 latrines were constructed or renovated in ten camps.

At the beginning of March an agreement was signed between the authorities and the ICRC for the Caala town water supply project, which will ensure access to safe water for over 30,000 people.


 Mine action: Help for the victims  

The ICRC supports three ministry of health rehabilitation centres - in Luanda, Huambo and Kuito - and provides help to over 3,000 disabled people from seven provinces. Since the beginning of the ICRC's orthopaedic programme in Angola more than 15,000 amputees have been fitted with artificial limbs. More than 2,000 lower limb prostheses are produced annually.

The assistance provided covers technical and financial support to the orthopaedic centres, including the manufacture and fitting of prostheses, as well as the manufacture of crutches and distribution of wheelchairs. All these services, including physiotherapy, transport and accommodation, are provided free of charge. Since January 2003, 538 patients have been fitted with limbs (406 of them mine victims) and 982 pairs of crutches have been distributed to patients from these rehabilitation centres.

 Mine action: Prevention  

The ICRC supports the Angolan Red Cross (CVA) mine awareness programme in the provinces of Bié and Benguela. Capacity building has been undertaken by the ICRC to enable the CVA to carry out awareness activities and to ensure that mine/UXO risk information is shared between communities and humanitarian agencies. A seminar with 18 volunteers from Benguela – where a mine awarerness programme has been launched - was held in Luanda in March; similar training is planned for 20 volunteers from Bié province.

 Cooperation: Working as a Movement  

The first four months of 2003 have seen moves towards greater institutional cooperation between the ICRC, the Angolan Red Cross (CVA) and the International Federation. They hold mon thly information and coordination meetings and focus on enhancing the capacity of the national society to do its work.

The ICRC and CVA have made a special effort to increase the efficiency of activities related to restoring family links (145 CVA tracing offices are supported by ICRC) and on developing a cooperation agreement for mine awareness.

The ICRC has also provided logistical support to the CVA for the distribution of 4,500 bundles of used clothing donated by the Finnish Red Cross. And the ICRC worked with CVA volunteers in the provinces of Huambo, Bié and Uige in a health and hygiene awareness programme. 

The Red Cross societies of France and Spain are also carrying out projects in Angola.


 Dissemination of IHL  

The ICRC promotes the dissemination of international humanitarian law (IHL) and the principles of the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement to members of the armed forces, the police, authorities and civilians. This is done through formal dissemination sessions (reaching 235 arms carriers so far in 2003) and in less formal ways, including theatre presentations (8,550 people covered in 2003). The Red Cross message is also sent out in radio programmes regularly broadcast in Luanda, Huambo and Kuito.

  The ICRC in Angola, 2002: essential facts and figures

The April 2002 peace agreements had the effect of enabling access by humanitarian agencies to large areas of the country that had been closed for years. This exposed huge needs which the ICRC has sought to address as follows:
  Restoring family links: more than 80,000 Red Cross Messages exchanged; 118 new tracing offices set up; almost 4,000 tracing requests opened; more than 1,000 unaccompanied children registered – over a quarter of them were re-united with their famlies.
  Detention: 48 visits were made to detainees in 25 places.
  Assistance: more than 11,000 families were regularly given food in Bié and Huambo provinces, while 17,000 families also received seeds and tools, to help them make a fresh start;
  Health: major support provided to Huambo central hospital (for the benefit of some 30,000 people) and to 11 health centres in Huambo, Bié and Uige provinces; HIV/AIDS awareness programme reached some 300,000 people; renovation of health posts and contruction of latrines.
  War disabled/mine action: support to three government orthopaedic centres, in which more than 1,500 mine victims were fitted with artificial limbs; start of mine awareness programme (Angola is one of the worst-infected countries in the world).
  Rules of war: dissemination of international humanitarian law, especially to soldiers and police.