21 August 1995

By Susan Njanji

LUANDA--Nearly 100 children under the age of five die in Angola daily from both direct impact of the conflict and diseases, making it one of the countries with the highest infant mortality rates in the world, the United Nations said.

In a report released recently, assessing the state of children in this southern Africa country wracked by two decades of civil war, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) said with 94 children dying every day, "it is estimated that Angola today has the highest mortality rates in the world".

"Although direct exposure to conflict is a major killer of children, malaria, diarrhoeal diseases, measles and acute respiratory infections also inflict a heavy toll on the lives of young children," UNICEF said.

Angolan government forces and guerrillas of the rebel National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) fought for 20 years after the country attained independence from Portugal in 1975.

Severe malnutrition was responsible for a heavy toll of children in outlying areas, particularly the central provinces of Bie and Huambo, which were cut off from humanitarian aid for months due to continued fighting between 1992 and 1994.

In addition the country's health sector suffered drastic cuts in state funding at the expense of military spending in recent years.

But the survivors have not been totally spared other effects of one of Africa's longest running conflicts.

Apart from the general psychological war trauma, Angolan children have among them some of the highest numbers of disabled, orphaned or abandoned children.

Many children at Luanda's main orphanage, Lar Kwzola, have lost one or more limbs from anti-personnel mines explosions or have missing eyes due to shrapnel wounds.

With an estimated 10 million mines indiscriminately laid across Angola, the UN says the statistics translate to 5.5 mines for every Angolan child under the age of five years.

Luzia Inges, director of Lar Kwzola, says of the children received at the centre that the most traumatised are from the central provinces, particularly Bie where fighting was intense especially during the renewed war from 1992.

Last week she had received a new intake of 30 children from Bie whom she described as severely traumatised.


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