- The UN's World Food Programme (WFP), finding it hard to mobilise donors to support Angola's hungry poor, has been forced to cut back on its feeding programmes in Africa's second-biggest oil producer.
The food agency announced on Friday that a lack of funding had prompted it to wind down all its food aid operations in Angola by the end of the year, after three decades of direct involvement in the country.
WFP has begun discussions with the Angolan government about handing over any remaining food stocks for distribution by competent state institutions.
"WFP's aim has always been to hand over responsibility for food assistance and development support to the government of Angola. A drop in donor support has spurred us to speed up the handover process," said Sonsoles Ruedas, the acting Country Director in Angola.
"We plan to scale back to a small office in Luanda [the capital], which will provide only technical assistance to the Government, starting in 2007."
The current operation, valued at US$90 million, was launched in April 2006 and had planned to run until March 2009. However, contributions to date reached just US$19.5 million, a shortfall of 78 percent.
"In the age of diminishing resources, Angola is not going to be popular," commented Amir Abdulla, WFP's regional director for Southern Africa. "There is a perception that an oil-producing country like Angola should perhaps do more to help itself."
In September, WFP began suspending food distributions to 700,000 Angolans, among them 220,000 children in school-feeding programmes. Other beneficiaries included pregnant and nursing women, children under the age of five and people suffering from HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and pellagra.
The world's largest humanitarian agency arrived in Angola in 1976 to deliver food aid across the country to people stranded and displaced by the 27-year civil war.
When the war ended in 2002, WFP assisted in the long process of reconstruction and the repatriation of Angolan refugees, which is ongoing. More than 80,000 refugees are still expected to return home from camps in neighbouring Zambia, Namibia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
International medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières-Spain has been concerned over the suspension of targeted feeding. "We know in areas like Moxico and [the southeastern province of] Cuando Cubango, school feeding and programmes for those affected by HIV/AIDS are often the only source of nutrition," said Monica Camacho, head of the mission in Angola.
Angola has one of the world's highest child mortality rates, with one in four children dying before the age of five.
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