Angola: severe drought leads to humanitarian crisis
Bro. Pio Wacussanga, a parish priest working in the arid region of southern Angola, highlights the plight of the population in the face of the worst drought the country has known for forty years.
By Benedict Mayaki, SJ
Millions of people in southern Angola are going through difficult times as drought exacerbated by climate change continues to ravage the region. Abnormal drought has hampered the 2020/21 rainy season, severely affecting crops and livestock and pushing many people to the brink of famine.
More so, the situation has resulted in migratory movements from the worst affected areas with families moving to other provinces, and across the border to neighboring Namibia and Zambia in search of more favorable conditions.
Bro. Pio Wacussanga is a priest serving in the drought-stricken southern province of Huíla, who works closely with the population to provide support to those in need. He spoke to the Vatican News Father. Benedict Mayaki SJ, highlighting the situation on the ground and explaining how it affects Angolans who have been made vulnerable by the worst drought the country has seen in forty years.
Br. Wacussanga heads the Associação Construindo Communidades (ACC) based in Lubango, and Ame Naame Omunu (ANO) in Cunene. Through these organizations, he plays an active role in drawing attention to the situation of generalized famine in southern Angola.
The Angolan priest noted that the drought in the semi-arid southern part of the country is not entirely new, as it had been recorded even in the 19e century. However, the phenomenon has become recurrent and even persistent.
In the past, he explained, “we would have droughts in between, every eight or ten years, but now we will probably have a full year of rain and the next year you will have a drought.”
Forced migration, difficult living conditions
Angolans living in the provinces of Huíla, Namibe and Cunene have been particularly affected by the persistent drought. As a direct consequence, there is increasing food insecurity leading to malnutrition as it is difficult to produce food and care for livestock which are necessary for the survival of the population under increasingly precarious conditions.
In addition, reduced access to water, sanitation and hygiene has negative impacts on the health of local communities.
Bro. Wacussanga explains that large waves of people have been forced to move inside the country in search of food and water, or have fled the country to Namibia in search of humanitarian aid. It assumes that around 3 million people have been displaced, with between 16 and 20,000 Angolans resettled in neighboring Namibia.
Call of the bishops
Faced with the dire situation, the Bishops of Angola and São Tomé issued a statement on October 11, urging the Angolan authorities to declare a state of emergency to allow the international community’s assistance to the region affected by the drought.
Fr. Wacussanga welcomed the idea of the bishops, noting that international agencies are better equipped and more experienced to deal with humanitarian crises.
He notes that the Angolan government is doing something to help provide food and water to people in the region, but its efforts are not enough and there is a need for help from international agencies to complement the aid. of the government.
In this regard, the Church is also doing her part to come to the aid of those in need. The Angolan priest emphasizes the role of the Church in helping the government to have a better food delivery policy and the important work it does in the area of advocacy.
Fr. Wacussanga asserts that “drought is a clear indication of the impact of climate change” which is already causing suffering and even death. To take responsibility and turn the tide, he insists that we need to protect the environment instead of continuing to destroy nature.
In this regard, he gives the example of a region of oil-rich land stricken by drought where the government has extraction plans to maximize oil revenues. He notes that there are plans to begin extraction, but none on how to reduce the impact of environmental damage from oil exploration, “especially in areas of high biodiversity and ethnic minorities who depend on it. nature “to survive.
“The more we protect nature, the more nature will protect us,” said Fr. said Wacussanga.
He calls for a stronger state response on this issue, adding that the Church’s Commission for Justice, Peace and Migration is already doing a lot to educate people to protect nature.