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Further cuts in food rations to the vulnerable looming

[Angola] Refugee returnees in Cazombo are in need of aid.
Returning refugees and IDPs need food aid (WFP)

The World Food Programme (WFP) requires urgent funding in order to avoid further cuts to its aid programme in Angola, the agency's country director Rick Corsino told IRIN on Tuesday.

He was commenting on a serious shortfall in the agency's Protracted Relief and Recovery operation, which still needs around US $40 million during 2005 to facilitate the return and resettlement of displaced Angolan populations.

WFP has had to halve cereal rations to both internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees returning to their areas of origin or resettlement.

"We have three main groups of beneficiaries. The largest one is the people who have returned to their traditional places of residence (IDPs and refugees) - that's about 850,000 people we are trying to look after through the harvest which, depending on which part of the country you talk about, comes around May," Corsino said.

Without more food or funding contributions, "we will have to start reducing rations even further, by late next month or beginning of April", he added.

Supporting returning populations is critical at this stage, because "when they come back they have almost nothing - just the assets which they can carry, which is precious little". After resettlement in Angola, they have to sustain themselves "as peasant farmers; they have to provide themselves with accommodation, which is rudimentary in the beginning, and prepare the land for planting," he said.

"If they're worried about getting food on a day-to-day basis, then they won't be able to do that [plant crops]; if they are not in a position to do that, they won't be able to look out for themselves [in future]. They may have the tendency to move again [in search of food], either to the overpopulated cities like [the capital] Luanda, or be pushed into scavenging for food in unsafe areas where there are landmines," Corsino explained.

Without food aid to get them through their first harvest cycle, many returning IDPs and refugees would not be able to become self-sufficient through subsistence farming, and Angola's agricultural recovery could be threatened.

"At the beginning, when we set this programme up, we did not think that one harvest cycle was enough [for people to become self-sufficient]. We had aimed at supporting them through two harvest cycles, but we have had to cut cereal rations in half, and have said - in some exceptional circumstances - that we could only help people through one harvest cycle," Corsino noted.

WFP has not cut rations to some 60,000 beneficiaries considered extremely vulnerable. "People in tuberculosis clinics, leprosy clinics and orphanages ... have not had their rations reduced," Corsino said.

He added that WFP had hoped to expand its school-feeding programme, which reached 42,000 children last year, but has been hindered by funding shortages.

Late last year the government of Angola donated $4 million to WFP's operations, as part of a pledge to provide $7.5 million over 2 years. Donors welcomed the move, and there was hope that it would spark further contributions to WFP's operations.

"We have been getting some contributions recently and the shortfall is a little less now, however, we are still looking at a [gap of] about $40 million," he said.

Corsino explained that donors have other demands for their aid money, including the crisis in Darfur and the Asian tsunami, and "there's a growing perception that, in southern Africa, governments should be looking after their people better than they have, so it makes it quite difficult to get resources [for food aid]".

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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