Angola is a country in Southern African that is home to nearly 31 million people. Of those people, at least 2.3 million of them are at high risk for extreme malnutrition. Angola experienced an El Niño from 2015 to 2017 and the impact of this phenomenon along with the 2019 drought has been long-lasting. Here are five facts about hunger in Angola.
5 Facts About Hunger in Angola
- Widespread drought is the central cause of hunger. A devastating drought hit Angola in 2019 that reversed much of the steady decline in hunger and malnutrition within the country. The start of 2019 marked an uptick in both Angola’s Global Hunger Index rank and prevalence of stunted children under 5 years of age. Nearly half a million people at high risk for extreme malnutrition are under the age of 5. This drought was especially harmful to Angola due to the country’s fragile state after the recent El Niño in 2017. The drought’s impact on hunger in Angola can be seen across all aspects of everyday life.
- Commercial cattle farming hurts local cattle farmers. As the drought took its course in Angola, thousands of kilometers of previously fertile land was rendered useless. About 40% of Angolans live in rural areas where they depend on livestock-related activities for survival, mainly cattle farming. Commercial farmers were given 2,629 square kilometers of the remaining fertile land, leaving only 33% of the fertile land for local cattle farmers. Cattle farming is the main source of income for Angolan locals; however, when the drought began, their land was taken from them without due process. One of the hardest-hit provinces was Cunene, a province of rural farmlands that commercial cattle farmers now occupy.
- Improper governmental land distribution reveals corruption from within. The constitution of Angola clearly states that before any of its people’s land is taken away, there must be a consultation with the government. No such consultations were made before 46 commercial cattle farmers took the Angolan land, which is a clear violation of the country’s constitution. Shortly after these unlawful land seizures, the Angolan government ratified several laws to protect the right to food and clean water for its people, although no reparations have been made to those living in Cunene. With Cunene being the second largest province for cattle farming, the seizure of communal farmland forced locals to travel long distances to other provinces for water and food they previously had access to on their land.
- Conditions in Angola force people to turn to new food sources. With local cattle farming being the main source of food, there is a distinct lack of food because of the drought and improper land distribution. Hunger in Angola has intensified because communal cattle grazing land has either dried up or been given to commercial farmers. This has forced people to eat wild leaves to avoid starvation. Eating wild leaves causes sickness, diarrhea and skin conditions in both adults and children. Despite many adults giving up drinking milk so their children may have it, malnutrition levels in Angolan children younger than 5 continue to increase.
- The fight against hunger forces education to the back burner. In a country where people fight daily to find clean water and decent food, education becomes less of a priority and more of a luxury. Children spend their days helping their parents search for clean water and food, which has led to the closure of 160 schools alone in Cunene, one of the most affected provinces. Over 70% of Angolan children have had their education disrupted due to an inability to meet their basic needs. Even when students can come to school, most of them are exhausted from their long days of searching for clean water and food: and oftentimes these searches yield few results.
Although Angola faces these pervasive issues, some organizations are working to fight for the Angolan people and their well-being. Doctors With Africa CUAMM is an NGO working to fight malnutrition specifically in mothers and children under the age of five in Cunene. They first began their work in Angola in 1997, but their “Mothers and Children First” program took off in 2012 by working to ensure safe birthing and newborn care practices. Doctors With Africa CUAMM has visited nearly 27,500 Angolan mothers and newborns in addition to building 20 health centers near Cunene. The NGO focuses on building long-term healthcare projects, training African and Italian health care providers, conducting scientific studies about health in Africa and providing educational resources about health to the general public.
In 2017, Angola requested aid to help provide resources to Congolese refugees entering Angola. The U.S. Food for Peace partnered with the U.N. World Food Program to contribute $4.5 million to their efforts in 2019. The money went toward local food distribution, to affected locals and refugees as well as monitoring the drought situation. With this money, better protection of refugees has become possible, and locally produced food has become more accessible in northern provinces. While these are helpful steps forward, a more permanent set of solutions is still needed to eliminate hunger in Angola.
– Natalie Tarbox