“We only have a few precious months to help those wishing to return home,” said World Food Programme (WFP) Deputy Country Director for the southern African country, Sonsoles Ruedas. She noted that it was even more crucial that the international community steps forward now since repatriations can only take place between June and October due to seasonal rains. “For those people who have already returned, it’s going to be a battle to eke out an existence during the rainy season without assistance. I really don’t know how they are going to survive,” she added. WFP has received only $45 million – or 18 per cent – of its appeal for $253 million to feed 1.4 million returning refugees and displaced people until the end of 2005, forcing it to slash cereal rations by half. Unless there are immediate new donations, no cereals at all will be distributed in September, when the lean season starts. The agency estimates that it will need a minimum of $81.5 million just for the rest of this year for those who have already returned home or are scheduled to be repatriated from neighbouring Zambia, Namibia and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), some of them after spending decades in exile. “Many face unimaginable misery when they return home,” Ms. Ruedas said. “Clean drinking water from protected sources is rare, there are very few schools or health clinics and electricity remains only a dream in vast areas of the country. Now there is also very little food, which is essential if the repatriation process is to be successful.” Less than 5 percent of all arable land is cultivated in Angola due to a combination of landmines, and lack of seeds, fertilizer and draught animals. A recent joint assessment mission from the WFP and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) found that cereal production is growing and the number of people needing food aid is falling, but that many challenges remain for the country which has enjoyed peace and stability since April 2002, when a ceasefire agreement was signed between the government and the rebel Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA).