Food crisis in the land of orphans

CARLOS LOST his father and all four uncles to the war. "I don't want to go like them. I told myself I would never die like them, in this stupid war. Never." Carlos, 21, like many young men his age, lives in fear of being rounded up by government police and sent to the front line of Angola's never-ending civil war.

His fears are well founded. Fighting between the Angolan government, led by the former Marxist Popular Movement (MPLA), and the National Union for the Total Independence for Angola (Unita) is getting more widespread. Parliament is debating whether to pass the law banning all boys and men between the age of 18 and 35 from leaving the country.

In addition there are rumours of the rebel group Unita taking boys from families and training them as child-soldiers. Girls as young as 13 have reportedly been kidnapped and abused by the rebels.

Since Angola won independence from Portugal in 1975 the war has claimed hundreds of thousands of civilian lives, displacing many more, and has left a large part of the country's young population orphaned and homeless. Forty-two per cent of Angola's 11 million are now under the age of 15.

Today the cities of Kuito, Huambo and Malanje are under siege. The Humanitarian Assistance Co-ordination Unit (UCAH) estimates the number of displaced people in all three regions has risen from 350,000 in December to 470,000. It was reported that displaced children of Malanje were suffering from serious food shortages and UCAH described the situation as "catastrophic".

According to Gillian Forest of Save the Children Fund (SCF), within the first week of the fighting in December the number of Kuito's orphans in the care of SCF houses more than doubled. The central office in Luanda has collected 350 unaccompanied children from the airport over the last month, mostly from Huambo and Malanje. The last plane to leave Kuito on 15 December reportedly had people hanging on to the wings as it took off.

Aid workers who remain in the combat regions say the situation is dire with high risk of starvation and disease as aid cannot get through. Aid operations remain virtually at a standstill with all flights suspended after two UN aircraft were shot down near Huambo, killing 22 UN personnel.

In this oil- and diamond-rich country, illiteracy rates are estimated to be as high as 60 per cent and the education system is in tatters, barely reaching beyond primary school level.

The streets of Angola's capital, Luanda, are busy with small children scavenging in the garbage bins for food, sometimes carrying even smaller ones on their backs. They hardly look like warriors in waiting, but without a change of direction in the grotesque modern story of modern Angola, that is precisely what many will become.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sheridan Maine: Accounts Assistant

£25,000 - £30,000: Sheridan Maine: Are you looking for a fantastic opportunity...

Neil Pavier: Commercial Analyst

£50,000 - £55,000: Neil Pavier: Are you a professionally qualified commercial ...

Loren Hughes: Financial Accountant

£45,000 - £55,000: Loren Hughes: Are you looking for a new opportunity that wi...

Sheridan Maine: Finance Analyst

Circa £45,000-£50,000 + benefits: Sheridan Maine: Are you a newly qualified ac...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor