As the United States and its allies pour aid into Afghanistan for the return and reintegration of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs), support for refugees and IDPs in Africa is diminishing. The case of Angola is particularly acute. The long-running civil war in that country has uprooted one-third of the population. With the death of UNITA rebel leader Jonas Savimbi, the conflict could be coming to an end, but more than four million Angolans, out of a population of 12 million, are IDPs, and the number has been steadily rising. Each month, an additional 30,000 people become internally displaced. Yet a UN appeal for $233 million has brought in less than half of that amount, and the U.S. is withdrawing its support from a promising UN High Commissioner for Refguees (UNHCR) program to protect and assist Angola’s internally displaced.
This U.S. decision merits reconisideration:
- There are in today’s world an estimated 25 million internally displaced persons, the majority of whom (13 million) can be found in Africa. With the collapse of the Lusaka accords at the end of 1998, conflict and displacement have made Angola one of the world’s worst affected countries, one out of every three Angolans being an IDP.
- Many of the IDPs are in desperate straits, some without sufficient food and medicines, others without adequate shelter, having to take refugein transit centers, derelict buildings, bombed out warehouses, or in and underneath train carriages.
- Protection problems abound: armed attacks, uncontrolled banditry, the continued laying of landmines, the kidnapping and trading of children, forced conscription, sexual violence.
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