A recent editorial in THE LANCET (Lancet 2002; 359: 2125) was critical of UN agencies for not responding quickly enough to humanitarian emergencies. Responding to this, Erick de Mul from the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Angola, comments: "Hundreds of individual agencies around the world are now working in humanitarian assistance. The efforts of most of these organisations are remarkable. Millions of lives are saved every year by programmes that are launched, often in extreme circumstances, by UN Agencies and NGOs. The resources available for humanitarian action, however, are almost never enough."
Commenting that resource and political constraints are the main barriers to the provision of humanitarian aid in Angola, he concludes: "Reform of the UN is important, and serious efforts aimed at strengthening the system and making it more effective are needed. But we must avoid the cynicism of careless criticism and recognise that real concrete progress has been made in recent years. Humanitarian assistance has been improved and pragmatic co-ordination mechanisms have ensured that hundreds of aid workers are aiming for the same objective, saving the lives of people who would otherwise suffer or die. We must not mistake serious resource and political constraints for bureaucratic inertia. Humanitarian organisations in Angola are working together towards the same objective- ensuring that the peace that has finally come to the country after decades of warfare lasts, and that the Angolan people who have suffered so much survive and prosper with dignity."