Report by Ben Campbell, Program Officer Southern Africa Regional Team
|In 1996, I had the opportunity to fly on a Russian-made helicopter to Massango, Marimba and Caombo, district capitals in the UNITA-controlled area of Malange province. This assessment allowed me to venture into areas deep within the UNITA controlled areas, something few people on this side of the UNITA border were allowed to do. Although Angola is one country on maps, it has been governed by two opposed, but well-armed, sides. In 1996, even though the country was relatively calm, there were tensions building on each side of the 30-year-old conflict. Most of the areas I visited that day were cut off from the outside world.|
Landing in Marimba, I found a peaceful village of quaint, Portuguese styled buildings surrounded by the ubiquitous African adobe huts. Nestled on a hill, the village overlooked a series of valleys where the majority of farmers worked small plots. While poor, most people were able to cultivate their land with only minimal control of the usually repressive UNITA party officials. Part of the reason stemmed from the distance of this village to the UNITA provincial capital of Calculama. Somewhat removed from the highly tense areas of confrontation, these people were able to get on with their life.
|Three weeks ago, I saw the people of Marimba again. Their stories tell a tale very different than my experience of 1996. The village of Marimba is no more. UNITA has burned it to the ground. The people who came out and greeted me at the helicopter three years ago have now been pushed off their land and forced to flee for their lives. They walked over 300 kilometers (186 miles) with literally just the clothes on their backs. With no where else to go, they fled to Malange city and the relative safety of the cement buildings. “At least there are strong buildings to hide under in Malange”, one woman said. “In the bush, we had no place to hide from UNITA’s artillery.” After three to four days of hiding during the day and walking at night, the villagers arrived in Malange city. They had traversed that distance without any food and crossed the heavily landmined periphery of the city. Once there, they were subject to the continual shelling of the UNITA guns. Lacking the resources to go on, they have been forcibly resettled by the MPLA government in the outskirts of the city. There, they can at least grow some crops, or so the theory goes.|
|World Vision is responding to the needs of these people as it has again and again in the Angolan conflict. Commodities staff from World Vision are registering these people and helping them to get re-established in their temporary homes. Once there, they receive seeds and tools from World Vision agriculturist and technical advise on how to grow crops more efficiently on the small patch of land provided them by the government. To make sure they make it until next harvest, they receive a monthly food distribution of World Food Program commodities through World Vision. Time and time again, the UN agency turns to World Vision to get the rations of maize, beans, salt and oil to the dislocated people of Angola. Many other NGOs turn to World Vision to help with this overwhelming burden. World Vision is recognized as a leader in helping those most in need in Angola. |