Aid puts Angola famine on hold: Food flights are saving lives in Malange despite the war, reports Karl Maier

TENS of thousands of emaciated Angolans shuffle into makeshift feeding centres in Malange city each morning in what ironically, given the people's pitiful physical state, has become a success story.

People in the worst shape are given three meals a day, others in slightly better condition queue for bags of maize. A massive international aid effort spearheaded by the UN World Food Programme has thwarted a famine that was killing more than 100 people a day just a month ago in this besieged central town of 400,000 200 miles east of Luanda.

Aid workers say the daily death toll has fallen dramatically in the past month, although anaemia and kwashiorkor, the protein deficiency disease, are still widespread. Many are worried the international community will soon run out of patience if the three-month-old negotiations between President Jose Eduardo dos Santos's government and Jonas Savimbi's Unita rebel movement fail to produce a peace agreement.

Up to 140 tons of food reaches Malange each day, all by air because the shattered town is surrounded by soldiers loyal to Mr Savimbi. The cost of transporting the food from the West appears astronomical at about pounds 28,000 a day, but since nearly everyone in town depends on the handouts, it comes to a bargain price of about 7 pence per head daily.

'There is no comparison with the situation late last year,' said Maria Jose Fernandes, a worker for the religious relief agency Caritas. 'But the war continues, the landmines still encircle the city, and the farmers cannot plant their crops. So if the food stops coming, the famine will return.'

Malange became a focal point of Angola's off-again, on-again civil war, which began at independence from Portugal in 1975, was suspended for 18 months with a ceasefire in May 1991, and resumed with greater intensity after Mr Savimbi refused to accept his defeat in UN-backed general elections in September 1992.

By last August, the forces of President dos Santos's MPLA government maintained a tenuous hold on Malange , while hundreds of starving civilians were killed or mutilated when they ventured out into the belt of landmines surrounding the town in search of food.

Malange's fortunes have improved sharply thanks to the work of Caritas, the World Food Programme and an influx of international relief workers from Concern, an Irish aid agency, World Vision and Medecins sans Frontieres.

Fighting around the city is sporadic. Early this month four members of the US congress, which once heartily backed Unita with millions of dollars in arms, were forced to abort a visit after Unita began shelling the town. Last Sunday, Unita gunners opened up again, wounding dozens of people and killing as she slept an Angolan nurse who worked for Concern. But the increased food supplies have meant that fewer civilians have been dying by stepping on landmines while searching for manioc.

Abuses and robberies by government soldiers continue, according to Angolan civilians and aid workers. On Monday, a group of soldiers carjacked a truck hired by Concern by threatening to shoot the driver unless he handed over the keys. They later returned it. On another recent occasion, a drunk police officer sprayed a feeding centre with AK-47 fire.

The provincial government has had its problems, too. The governor of Malange, Flavio Fernandes, has been accused by a senior local official of selling food aid on the open market for profit. Mr Fernan des, who was dogged by allegations of selling donated medicines on the black market when he was Minister of Health, dismissed Conceicao Araujo as the Malange director of the government relief agency, Minars, after she levelled the charges. The confrontation prompted personal intervention by the Prime Minister, Marcelino Moco, to settle the dispute.

Angolan aid workers say food aid that arrives very early in the morning or late at night is routinely looted at the airport. 'The level of theft by the soldiers is just terrible. They rob and rob,' said Miss Fernandes, the Caritas worker. 'The only way to end these abuses is to stop the war.'

Voices
The Sumatran tiger, endemic to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is an endangered species
voicesJonathon Porritt: The wild tiger population is thought to have dropped by 97 per cent since 1900
News
These photographs released by the University of Maryland Medical Center show images of full face transplant recipient 37-year-old Richard Lee Norris of Hillsville, Virginia
mediaGQ front page features man who underwent full face transplant
Sport
Lionel Messi looks on at the end of the final
football
Arts and Entertainment
tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Prince Harry is clearing enjoying the Commonwealth Games judging by this photo
people(a real one this time)
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
Life and Style
Attractive women on the Internet: not a myth
techOkCupid boasts about Facebook-style experiments on users
Sport
Van Gaal said that his challenge in taking over Bobby Robson's Barcelona team in 1993 has been easier than the task of resurrecting the current United side
football
News
The Swiss Re tower or 'Gherkin' was at one time the UK’s most expensive office when German bank IVG and private equity firm Evans Randall bought it
news
Sport
Moeen Ali wearing the 'Save Gaza' and 'Free Palestine' wristbands on his left arm
cricket
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off 2014 contestants
tv
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
filmThe Battle of the Five Armies trailer released
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him
musicIndie music promoter was was a feature at Carter gigs
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Java Developer

£45000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: JAVA DEVELO...

HR Business Partner (Maternity Cover 12 Months)

£30000 - £34000 Per Annum 25 days holiday, Private healthcare: Clearwater Peop...

Microsoft Dynamics AX Developer

£475 - £550 per day: Progressive Recruitment: MDAX / Dynamics AX / Microsoft D...

.Net/ C# Developer/ Analyst Programmer - Eciting new Role

£45000 - £50000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: .NET/ C# .Pr...

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on