Luanda (Fides Service) – “The country still feels the effects of so many years of civil war and hardship. People are disappointed with the government which promises a lot but does little. Nevertheless there are some positive developments” local sources in Luanda tell Fides Service. In 2002 the civil war which had lasted 25 years finally came to an end. The conflict between the government and UNITA rebels (Union for Total Independence for Angola) left a tragic situation: infrastructures destroyed, millions of displaced persons, one of the world’s highest illiteracy rates among the young people – 44% for boys and 72% for girls.
“One positive event is the return of refugees who fled to other countries years ago” Fides sources say. “They return but they have nothing: they lack housing, food, social assistance, schooling. These people are presently assisted by the World Food Programme WFP which collaborates successfully with the local Church. For example in Lwena WFP workers have established an effective partnership with the local Salesian mission”.
The local Catholic Church is very active in the field of education. Recently Bishop Oscar Lino Lopes Fernandes Braga of Benguela, secretary general of the Angolan Bishops’ Conference, affirmed that the local Church intends to make even greater efforts to resolve the problem of illiteracy, and he began by asking every mission in his diocese to open a school. The government appreciates the Church’s work in education and it has asked the local Church to take over the direction of more schools. The agreement with the government stipulates that the Church opens the school and the government pays the teachers selected with the help of Church authorities.
Another problem facing Angola is the re-organisation of farming. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation has distributed seed to farmers in 14 of Angola’s 18 Provinces, including the most remote and inaccessible. The distribution of seed is all the more vital since the return of millions of refugees increased the country’s food requirements. The government closed camps set up for former UNITA soldiers and their families assisted by the WFP. Most of these families have returned to the villages and must now find their own food. LM (Fides Service 29/9/2003 EM lines 34 Words: 436)