Population Losses Due to HIV/AIDS Means Famine in Africa ‘Could Last for Generations’
Combined with the effects of poverty, war, governmental problems, corruption and "erratic" weather, the "devastation" of the HIV/AIDS epidemic could "cripple the ability of societies in sub-Saharan Africa to recover from famine," which some observers say "could last for generations," the AP/Philadelphia Inquirer reports. According to the United Nations, the situation in sub-Saharan Africa is considered a "new variant famine" in which the population losses due to AIDS-related causes are destroying economies and agriculture and health systems, the AP/Inquirer reports. Currently, 29 million people in sub-Saharan Africa are HIV-positive -- 70% of the world's total HIV cases. AIDS-related conditions have killed more than eight million farm workers on the continent. In addition, the disease is responsible for killing the primary breadwinner in "millions of families," has "devastated poor rural villages" and has orphaned 4.2 million children on the continent, according to the AP/Inquirer. Brenda Barton, World Food Programme spokesperson in Nairobi, Kenya, said, "The stark message is, this crisis is not going to go away. We have a perpetual crisis. We are seeing a redefinition of famine, of humanitarian crises as we know them." Although humanitarian groups have worked to establish food aid and agricultural improvement programs, such efforts "are like spitting in the wind," Renny Nancholas, the Southern Africa food security coordinator for the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said, adding, "No one organization is ever going to dent such a huge crisis. It is really getting out of control." Richard Ragan, the World Food Programme's country director in Zambia, said that the "single biggest factor" in the food crisis is the AIDS epidemic, according to the AP/Inquirer (Leonard, AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 4/7). According to Ragan, HIV/AIDS lowers agricultural production, increases poverty and curbs the ability of agencies to "react to crises" (Leonard, AP/Minneapolis Star Tribune, 4/6). He added, "It permeates everything you do in this part of the world." Ragan said that in order to defeat the famine, the United Nations and African governments have to "wage an all-out, coordinated campaign" against HIV/AIDS. "If they don't, it is going to decimate the entire continent," Ragan said (AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 4/7).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.