Saturday, May 12, 2012

Angola: food is available - people cannot afford it

Millions of Angola's poorest families are facing critical food insecurity as a prolonged dry spell across large parts of the country has destroyed harvests and killed off livestock. Up to 500,000 children are now thought to be suffering from severe malnutrition triggered by the collapse in food production after a lengthy dry season in the first three months of this year. Crop yields are down by as much as 70 percent in some places.

 There are reports of subsistence farmers abandoning their fields altogether in a bid to find other paid work in towns and cities so that they can feed their families, and large commercial farms are laying off workers because there is no harvest to gather.

  Koen Vanormelingen, the United Nations Children's Fund representative in Angola, explained
"This is not a famine, it is an issue of food insecurity. There is food available; the issue is that because people are not producing as much food, they must buy more. And because their production has gone down, their income has also gone down so they cannot afford to buy food, and as supply falls and demand increases, prices are going up - in some cases doubling."

 Despite Angola's enormous oil wealth and the International Monetary Fund's forecast that GDP will swell by 9.7 percent in 2012, nearly two thirds of rural households live on less than 1.75 dollars a day and one of the highest child mortality rates in the world, with 20 percent of youngsters dying before they reach their fifth birthday.

Poor diet is a major factor in the high death rates and according to the latest National Nutrition Survey, carried out in 2007, nearly 30 percent of children under five are stunted, more than eight percent are wasted, and close to 16 percent are underweight.

Vanormelingen explained that this year's weak harvest was already taken its toll on the most vulnerable children, who were showing elevated rates of malnutrition."These people were already living on the border line and were scraping by at the best of times," he said."But where they were once eating a varied diet three times a day, now they are having just one meal a day, maybe two, and they are restricted to a very poor selection of cassava and bananas. It is a very serious situation and we are very concerned because we are seeing a significant increase in malnutrition and malnutrition-related mortality in children," 

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