Angola: ICRC activities January to June 2007
07-08-2007 Operational Update
Five years after the end of its 27 year long civil war, Angola is still living with the political, social and economic consequences. The ICRC maintains its presence in Angola providing ongoing support in the country's transition to stability.
With around 170 staff members in Angola, the ICRC focuses on restoring links between family members separated by the conflict, proving orthopaedic services to those affected by landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO), raising awareness about the continuing dangers posed by UXO, fostering respect for international humanitarian law and strengthening the capacities of the Angolan Red Cross.
Restoring contact between family members separated by years of conflict has been a core ICRC activity in Angola for the last five years. To this end, it works in close partnership with volunteers of the Angolan Red Cross (CVA).
The most vulnerable category of people is unaccompanied minors who must be protected from abuse and, when possible, reunited with their parents.
Since 2002, the ICRC has registered more than 2,100 unaccompanied minors.
The organization continues to give aid to centres and orphanages caring for unaccompanied children. The nationwide photo-tracing programme launched in July 2006 is still in use and is a valuable tracing tool, particularly in remote areas.
The Red Cross Gazette listing more than 18,000 people either searching for or being sought by relatives is still widely consulted. The names contained in the Gazette are also published on the ICRC website (http://www.familylinks.icrc.org).
Between January and June 2007, the ICRC and the CVA have reunited 33 children with their families as well as 11 other vulnerable people (mainly widows and the el derly). A total of 38 children were newly registered as unaccompanied.
At the end of June 2007, more than 23,300 adults and children were still being traced by their relatives; some 200 minors and 21 other vulnerable people continue to look for family members.
In March, the ICRC launched a study to inquire into the whole issue of those separated by conflict in Angola to provide lessons for future tracing activities.
The exchange of Red Cross Messages (RCM) is widely used in Angola to restore and maintain family links. Between January and May, around 7,600 RCMs were exchanged.
Although the few remaining detainees visited by the ICRC under the terms of its mandate were released under an amnesty in December 2006, visits to places of detention continue with a view to registering any possible new cases.
The ICRC also delivered a working paper to the authorities in April with recommendations for improving conditions of detention.
According to official figures, there are an estimated 105,000 physically disabled people in Angola, including around 70,000 mine victims.
Since 1979, the ICRC has supported three Ministry of Health orthopaedic centres in the provinces of Huambo, Bié and Luanda.
Children help to make the neighbourhood safer
In areas of Angola at high risk from mines and other explosives, children are creating wall paintings to spread messages on how to avoid the dangers. Using paint provided by the Angolan Red Cross, they are targeting their messages at groups at special risk, such as farmers and hunters, people collecting firewood – and at kids who are tempted to look for empty cans. The Red Cross has also supplied paint to mark paths so that people do not stray unaware into dangerous places.
During the period under review, the centres saw more than 1,800 patients and produced 322 prostheses and 67 orthoses. Wheelchairs and crutches were also provided. Services, including physiotherapy and accommodation, are provided free of charge.
In February 2006, a distance-learning training course began for 39 orthopaedic technicians. The three year course conducted in cooperation with the Don Bosco University in El Salvador, leads to an internationally recognized diploma. The ICRC is supporting 7 technicians during these studies and at the end of May 2007 the first module was concluded.
The ICRC continues to provide financial and technical support to the mine risk education activities of the CVA in six provinces. This programme involves sharing information with demining groups, broadcasting mine risk education messages via radio and helping communities map out dangerous areas. Specific programmes are aimed at vulnerable groups such as children, teenagers and farmers. Safe play areas are developed for children away from risk areas.
In the period under review, the army was able to destroy 32 unexploded devices and cleared a minefield in Benguela province after receiving information from CVA volunteers. Similarly, the Halo Trust destroyed 35 unexploded devices and cleared one minefield in Kuando Kubango province after receiving information.
In the framework of its humanitarian mission, the ICRC establishes contact with the Angolan authorities, the military, media and civil society. In Cabinda province in particular the ICRC continues to promote the institution and its activities
In February, the ICRC organized a week-long course on IHL for 20 instructors from the High Institute of Military Education (ISEM). The ICRC also provided IHL publications and literature to the Air For ce.
Between January and June 2007, dissemination sessions were carried out to more than 700 military and police personnel and to over 9,000 political, traditional and religious leaders, teachers and NGOs.
The ICRC also continues to assist the Angolan authorities to implement IHL into its national legislation.
A new Secretary General of the CVA was appointed in January 2007 and measures were taken as part of the National Development Plan aimed at reforming the National Society.