HIV/AIDS a Large Factor in Southern Africa Food Crisis, U.N. Report Says
HIV/AIDS has "contributed heavily" to Southern Africa's food shortage by causing the deaths of many African farmers and leaving many farmers and communities too weak to cultivate crops, according to a new U.N. report, the Boston Globe reports. The report, which was written by James Morris, special envoy of U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan for Humanitarian Needs in Southern Africa, stems from a recent trip by U.N. officials to the six nations worst-affected by the food crisis. According to the report, "The relationship between the HIV/AIDS pandemic and the reduced capacity of people and governments of Southern Africa to cope with the current (food) crisis is striking. HIV/AIDS is causing agricultural productivity to decline, forcing children to drop out of school, and placing an extraordinary burden on families and health systems." The report states that donors and African governments may not fully understand the link between famine and HIV/AIDS, which is likely to "further weaken" societies on the continent. "HIV/AIDS is a fundamental, underlying cause of vulnerability in the region, and represents the single largest threat to its people and societies," the report states. Stephen Lewis, U.N. special envoy on HIV/AIDS in Africa, went one step further on Friday at an AIDS conference at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, saying that it is "reasonable to argue that AIDS has caused the famine." Floods, drought, "corrupt" government policies and "mismanagement" of food supplies are also to blame, the Globe reports (Donnelly, Boston Globe, 10/7). The United Nations estimates that Southern Africa will need at least 3.5 million tons of grain between May 2002 and May 2003 to prevent widespread famine, especially in Zimbabwe, Malawi, Zambia, Mozambique, Lesotho and Swaziland (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/21).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.