Declare “state of emergency” on Drought in Southwest Angola: Catholic Entity to Government

Members of the Bishops' Conference of Angola and São Tomé (CEAST). Credit: CEAST

The leadership of the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Angola and São Tomé (CEAST) is calling on the Angolan government to declare a “state of emergency” on drought in the Southern African nation.

In an interview with ACI Africa earlier this week, the Executive Secretary of CCJP of CEAST, Fr. Celestino Epalanga, highlighted the impact of the drought that has affected millions of the inhabitants of Southwestern Provinces of Angola and decried the fact that the government “refuses to declare a state of emergency.”

“The Catholic Justice and peace commission is on an advocacy mission at various levels to persuade the Angolan government to declare the drought situation a state of emergency,” Fr. Epalanga during the Tuesday, March 1 interview.

The member of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits – SJ) added in reference to the political leadership of Angola, “We are in an arm-wrestling match with a government that refuses to declare a state of emergency.”

The CCJP official highlighted the negative impacts of the drought in his native country saying that thousands of Angolans from the Southwestern Provinces of Huila, Namibe, and Cunene have fled to neighboring Namibia.


“There are close to 7,000 Angolan climate refugees in Namibia”, Fr. Epalanga told ACI Africa March 1.

He added, “People are dying of hunger; children are malnourished; people are leaving their homes and fleeing to Namibia in search of food (and) better living conditions.”

According to Amnesty International, millions of people in Southern Angola are facing an existential threat as drought aggravated by climate change continues to ravage the region. 

In the March 1 interview with ACI Africa, the CCJP official who doubles as Deputy Country Director of the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) in Angola said that some climate refugees have taken refuge at a Catholic Mission where JRS personnel provide meals.

“We try to provide at least one or two meals per day,” Fr. Epalanga, adding, “our aim is to establish three soup kitchens.”

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The Jesuit Priest continued, “There are many malnourished children at the mission, so we have day care centers where we provide food to help these children overcome this state of malnutrition.”

According to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), in Angola, severe acute malnutrition admissions among children aged 6 to 59 months at mid-year 2021 have already exceeded the 2020 total caseload. 

An estimated 1.2 million people are facing water scarcity as a direct consequence of the drought, and have had their water, sanitation and hygiene conditions compromised by COVID-19, UNICEF has reported.

UNICEF has also reported that health emergencies, including measles, polio, malaria, and the COVID-19 pandemic, will increase humanitarian needs and deepen the complexity of the situation in 2022.

In the March 1 interview with ACI Africa, Fr. Epalanga bemoaned the government's failure to provide proper shelter for climate refugees who have voluntarily returned to Angola.


“There are no living conditions in the camps they created to accommodate these Angolan refugees returning from Namibia”, lamented Fr. Epalanga, adding that the situation has forced the refugees to return to Namibia. 

The Angolan CCJP official reiterated, “through our advocacy works, we continue to call on the government to declare the severe drought in Southwest Angola a state of emergency.”

Sheila Pires is a veteran radio and television Mozambican journalist based in South Africa. She studied communications at the University of South Africa. She is passionate about writing on the works of the Church through Catholic journalism.