United Nations Officials Voice ‘Bleak’ Outlook as AIDS Worsens Famine in Africa
The "monumental gravity" of the combination of food shortages and the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Southern Africa have created a "bleak" situation for the region, two United Nations special envoys said in a joint statement issued while on a five-nation, one-week tour, the United Nations/AllAfrica.com reports. After a visit to Lesotho, U.N. Envoy to the Secretary General for Humanitarian Needs in Southern Africa James Morris said that although international aid has "helped to prevent a tragedy," it is "increasingly likely" that the nation will depend on assistance for "many months to come," according to the United Nations/AllAfrica.com (United Nations/AllAfrica.com, 1/24). "It is clear, especially with the likelihood of another poor harvest and the astronomical HIV/AIDS level, that we have an enormous battle ahead of us in the fight against growing food insecurity and vulnerability in Lesotho," Morris said (U.N. IRIN/AllAfrica.com, 1/24). Stephen Lewis, U.N. special envoy to the secretary general for HIV/AIDS in Southern Africa, said in a press conference that the combinations of famine and HIV/AIDS in Zimbabwe will "swell the number of orphans" and lead to one million additional deaths by 2010, Agence France-Presse reports. "It's the desperate sense of accelerating urgency as this conjunction of hunger and AIDS plays itself out," Lewis said. About one-third of the nation's adults are HIV-positive, and eight million of the 11.6 million residents are threatened by famine, Agence France-Presse reports (Agence France-Presse, 1/25). Morris has asked Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe to "relax government restrictions" on grain imports to alleviate the food shortage, but government officials there have not agreed to end price controls, Reuters reports. Commercial farmers' being "forced off their land" has led to a "real loss" in food production, Morris said (Chinaka, Reuters, 1/25).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.