The Angolan government has exacerbated the starvation of its people due to its unfair practices in redistributing land, according to a report released Tuesday by Amnesty International. The report states that tens of thousands of pastoral farmers have been driven off their land to make way for commercial cattle ranches.
An estimated 2.3 million people are facing food insecurity due to the drought in Angola, and nearly half a million of these are children under 5.
Amnesty is calling on the government to immediately provide emergency food assistance, issue reparations to affected communities, and take immediate steps to address food insecurity.
“Traditional cattle farmers have lost their best grazing land and now watch helplessly as their children and families go to bed on empty stomachs,” Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s regional director for Southern Africa, said in a statement.
“The government has failed to protect the rights of these communities, in particular, their right to food. They have been left to scratch a living from infertile, unproductive land — and now, as the drought tightens its grip, they have simply been left with nothing to eat,” Muchena says.
This report comes after Monday’s news that the Catholic Church in Angola is urging the government to declare a state of emergency over the drought. Earlier this year, the government declared a state of emergency in three provinces.
An estimated 1 million cattle are impacted by the drought. Cattle rearing and milk production have been central to the economy in Tunda dos Gambos, and milk, cheese, yogurt, and meat production is the main source of livelihoods, so the drought has been devastating.
One pastoralist told Amnesty International that adults have given up drinking milk: “We, the grown-ups, have given up drinking milk so that the children can still have some. As you can see, we do not look healthy and strong as we used to be. We are skinny and weak.”
Hunger is widespread, with some people resorting to eating wild leaves to survive, according to Amnesty International. Locals say the lack of access to nutritious food has led to illnesses and skin conditions such as scabies, which is difficult to manage without access to clean water.
This issue of land distribution is one factor in food insecurity, in addition to a lack of rain and a shortage in food aid. UNICEF reports that this year’s rainy season was insufficient, destroying crops and impacting livestock. The worst-affected provinces include Cunene, Huila, Cuando-Cubango, and Namibe.
This #aerial photo from Luengue, in southeast #Angola shows just how dry the fields are after 12 months+ of severe #drought.— MAF Canada (@mafcanada) September 30, 2019
MAF flights continue to transport food and seed donated by local church partners to these areas in need. #FlyingForLifepic.twitter.com/p2bLybibB9
The search for water, which can take hours per day, often requires children to assist their parents, leading to a sharp decline in school attendance. World Vision reports that 160 schools have closed in the Cunene province, because families are moving to different locations in search of water. Nearly 70% of children in Cunene have faced disruptions to their education, according to UNICEF.
Even when children manage to attend class, their ability to learn has been massively hindered, says Rogério Kakoi, director of Ondobodhola Primary School in Cunene.
“Students no longer have any energy and aren’t really learning much,” Kakoi shared with UNICEF. “I have students who have to get up at 1 a.m. to take animals somewhere for water, and they don’t get back home until 5 a.m.”
Angola never recovered after it was struck by El Niño in 2015. The phenomenon ended in 2017, but its effects are long-lasting.
The ongoing drought impacts 14 countries across East Africa, Southern Africa, and the Horn of Africa. Across the regions, more than 45 million people will struggle to find enough food this year.