2 December 2002, Rome -- In Angola, the food situation of a large number of displaced people gives serious cause for concern.

A cease-fire agreement between the government and UNITA forces in April this year brought peace to Angola, a country devastated by almost three decades of conflict. Massive numbers of people are now returning to their places of origin.

The number of people in need of emergency food aid has been increased to 1.9 million from 1.42 million estimated by a joint FAO/World Food Programme mission in May. Some 4.35 million people are estimated to be at risk next year, including more than 2 million who will be highly vulnerable.

Malnutrition rates have declined over the past months with better access to the needy population, FAO said. But food insecurity remains at high levels and most of the areas to which the refugees and internally displaced people are returning have no basic health services.

Relief efforts and internal trade are hindered by the consequences of war on Angola's infrastructure, FAO said. Roads are in very poor conditions, bridges are in ruins, and minefields prevent the creation of alternative routes and impede farmers to work on their fields.

Heavy rains have turned roads into rivers and access to vast areas, such as the north of Huambo province, have been cut off. People are facing difficulties accessing local markets.

Agricultural emergency projetcs

For 2003, FAO has launched a $12.7 million aid appeal to assist the most vulnerable people to resume their agricultural activities. The UN agency is planning to continue the distribution of urgently needed quality seeds and tools.

"Good quality seeds were not available within the country, so we have identified skilled farmers in nine provinces and strengthened their ability to produce quality seed. We then buy a part of their production and distribute it to other needy farmers," said Fernanda Guerrieri, Chief of FAO's Emergency Operations Service.

Land-tenure projects, currently funded by Italy, to facilitate the return and reintegration of farmers are also important for the rehabilitation process undertaken by FAO and its partners.

Projects on quality seed production, animal breeding, small fisheries and land allocation to internally displaced people who have returned to their homes will also be part of FAO's emergency activities.

In 2002, FAO provided seeds and tools throughout the country, including some of the remotest areas of Angola, funded by the United States and Japan.

The relief assistance reached farmers just in time for the September/October sowing season. All in all more than 300 000 families received tools, vegetable seeds and food crop seeds such as maize, beans and sorghum, enabling them to resume food production.

Erwin Northoff
Media Relations Officer
+39 06 5705 3105