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15 June - Angola has made considerable strides in achieving more than half of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), including those on malnutrition and child health, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) announced today.

The finding is based on preliminary data from the first nationwide survey to collect development indicators since the end of Angola's long-running civil war.

UNICEF and the country jointly conducted the first-ever Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS), which found that progress has been made in five of the eight MDGs: malnutrition; education; gender balance; child survival and malaria; and HIV/AIDS.

Malnutrition has dropped from 35 to 23 per cent, while school enrolment has surged to 76 per cent.

Gender parity is close to being achieved in schools, with 98 girls for every 100 boys attending classes.

Meanwhile, child survival has been on the upswing, improving by nearly 20 per cent, while the proportion of child death due to malaria has fallen to 23 per cent.

Koen Vanormelingen, UNICEF's Representative in Angola, told reporters today in Geneva that these improvements are due to the consistent economic growth that the country has experienced since 2002. Also accelerating progress towards reaching the MDGs, which have a 2015 deadline, are the Government's rehabilitation and revitalization efforts, with 30 per cent of the State budget being earmarked for the social sector.

But he pointed to some setbacks, especially in maternal mortality, which has not seen the same level of improve as other areas, mainly because skilled attendance at birth continues to hover just below 48 per cent.

Also, despite improvements in schools, only 35 per cent of Angolan children finish primary school on time, and there is still a backlog of people who had not been able to receive educations during the 27-year war, which ended in 2002.

Mr. Vanormelingen also noted that the water and sanitation sector has experienced a step backward, with only 42 per cent of people having access to safe and drinkable water and 60 per cent to basic sanitation.

“Combined with continued poverty and disparity, this could jeopardize the gains made in child survival and development,” he cautioned.

One of the key reasons holding Angola – which ranks 143rd out of 158 nations in the 2009 Human Development Report of the UN Development Programme (UNDP) – back from stepped-up success in achieving the MDGs, he said, is the fact that nearly 90 per cent of Angolans live in slums.

The country, the UNICEF official said, has completed the relatively easier task of rebuilding institutions and infrastructures, but now must tackle the challenge of improving its human capital.

He stressed that, as agreed with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Angolan Government should continue its high level of investment in the social sector, but also enhance resource allocation to reduce poverty and in bolstering young people's skills.

During Angola's civil war between the Government, backed by Cuban troops, and rebels led by Jonas Savimbi and supported by South African forces, the UN sent three separate verification missions, beginning in 1989, to help implement various efforts to end the conflict.

The first two successfully monitored the withdrawal of Cuban troops and oversaw a multilateral ceasefire. The third, sent after renewed fighting, sought to help the parties restore peace and achieve national reconciliation, but was faced with continued conflict.

The fourth and final peacekeeping mission was withdrawn in 1999 following the collapse of the peace process and the shooting down of two UN aircraft.