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Lack of funds undermines resettlement process

[Angola] Refugees in Caala transit centre.
Returning refugees often face difficulties back home (OCHA)

Insufficient funds, poor infrastructure and widespread landmines continue to blight efforts to resettle tens of thousands of Angolans who fled their homes during the civil conflict.

Last week the World Food Programme (WFP) warned that unless new donations were received, in September no cereals would be distributed to resettled returnees or those scheduled to be repatriated from neighbouring countries. The UN agency has already slashed cereal rations by 50 percent due to the lack of funds.

WFP Deputy Country Director Sonsoles Ruedas said the funding shortage had "undermined the resettlement process" and "reduced the incentive for people to return to their areas of origin".

Aid groups have also been alerted to the deteriorating nutritional status of the local population in the southern part of the country as a result of drought conditions.

Since the April 2002 ceasefire, an estimated 70 percent of the 1.9 million internally displaced persons who returned to their homes have done so without any assistance. Even minimum conditions for their resettlement are often not in place.

"If you were a head of a family in Angola, would you want to resettle your family in a village where you couldn't educate your children? Where there is no market to sell your produce? Or if you were sick, there was no medicine to be had at the health post, or staff to administer it? These are the challenges that returnees are facing and the choices that they are having to make," information officer for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Dawn Blalock told IRIN on Tuesday.

However, in some places like Luau in the eastern province of Moxico, a major area of return, there were signs of increased economic activity. "The market place was deserted one year ago. Now farmers are bringing their products to market and we are seeing the rebirth of local commercial activity. Road and bridge repairs are allowing access," Blalock said.

But still, the pressure on returnees to re-establish their livelihoods was immense, she added.

"We've seen a disturbing trend in which people knowingly venture into mined areas to collect firewood or cultivate land. These people are literally risking life and limb - and oftentimes losing one or both - to do the most simple chores needed to survive," she noted.

Angola remains one of the most heavily mined countries in the world: estimates for the number of landmines range from six to 20 million, causing one of the highest rates of landmine injuries per capita in the world.

Humanitarian agencies have also routinely complained that landmines and the poor condition of roads continue to hamper relief efforts.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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