(formerly IRIN News) Journalism from the heart of crises

Food distributions stalled after rain takes out key bridges

Some 200,000 aid beneficiaries in central Angola are without food rations after recent heavy rains destroyed two main bridges in Bie province, the World Food Programme (WFP) said on Tuesday.

The two key bridges on the road between central Huambo province and Kuito city in Bie collapsed two weeks ago due to torrential rains. The road is also the main artery between the port of Lobito in Benguela province and Kuito city, the site of WFP's regional warehouse.

The UN food agency said since the loss of the bridges just 14,200 of its 219,000 targeted beneficiaries in Bie had received aid.

"We have received the assurance from the government that the bridge will be operational by Wednesday, which means that the current situation will be alleviated very soon. The government is aware of the importance of this road, and it is not only WFP operations which have been affected but also commercial traffic," the WFP officer in charge, David Chaad, told IRIN.

Although UN agencies and NGOs have reported a steady improvement in the humanitarian situation in Angola since the end of the war in 2002, access to certain areas is still limited, mainly because of poor road conditions. Aid agencies also cite the ever-present danger of landmines, a threat which increases during the rainy season.

In Benguela, 50,000 people in Ganda municipality remain cut off from humanitarian assistance after the Ganda-Cubal road was closed in December on suspicion of mines.

In its latest situation report, the UN the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) noted that returning refugees also faced difficulties reaching their place of origin.

OCHA information officer Dawn Blacloch said: "Although the repatriation effort is on hold until the end of the rainy season, some spontaneous refugees continue to trickle in. However, because of the road conditions, some find themselves stranded, unable to return to their [home] areas."

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