International relief agencies, such as the UN’s child agency (UNICEF), are warning that the situation in southern Angola is becoming extremely worrying, as families struggle to cope with a lack of food following severe drought. The Angolan government has said the country does not need humanitarian assistance and has enough resources to cope, but agencies are questioning this assertion.
UNICEF estimates that because of the prolonged drought in the south, which has also affected northern Namibia, around 3 million under-fives are at risk of malnutrition in Angola.
Already, between December last year and June this year, nearly 18,000 malnourished children have been treated through outreach community programmes, with more than 5,000 being severely and acutely malnourished.
Speaking to the Guardian, a spokesperson for UNICEF explained that the severity of the crisis is due to the fact that the recent drought has followed “years of poor rainfall”. This has drastically affected water supplies, with many regular water sources drying up. Children as young as nine are reportedly being sent out by families on long treks to fetch water and in some places the water they bring back is unclean. According to UNICEF, the use of contaminated water has lead to more than 1,500 cases of cholera and 62 deaths.
Malnutrition running at 24% in worst-hit province
In the worst-hit province of Cunene, pastoral and semi-nomadic communities have struggled to keep their livestock alive and half of Cunene’s population (more than half a million people) are believed to be affected. Malnutrition has already reached rates of 24%, with severe acute malnutrition running at nearly 6%.
Though Angola’s economy has been growing strongly, with gross domestic product rising an estimated 8% in 2012, the country still suffers from widespread poverty and inequality.
Some commentators have criticised the Angolan government for being unwilling to admit to the severity of the drought problem so as not to tarnish the country’s image as one of the success stories of Africa.