‘New Variety’ of Famine Caused By Disease Has Agencies Retooling Strategies To Provide Long-Term Food Aid
A "new variety" of famine that is caused by disease, specifically the HIV/AIDS epidemic, is causing aid agencies to retool their strategies in order to provide long-term food aid to southern African countries that have been hit hard by AIDS and drought, the Wall Street Journal reports. Usually, when the cause of famine is "weather, war, failed government policy or crop disease," a country can recover relatively quickly, requiring only short-term food aid, according to the Journal. However, "[a]s the AIDS crisis spreads, food shortages increase. As food shortages increase, so does malnutrition," making people more susceptible to diseases that take advantage of a weakened immune system, the Journal reports. According to Alex de Waal, an official with the U.N. commission on AIDS and governance in Africa, the epidemic could cause chronic food shortages and large populations could be left "reliant for their survival on a long-term program of international social welfare."
No Recovery In Sight
Across southern Africa, governments and relief agencies estimate that seven million farmers have died of AIDS-related causes, leaving many families with no tools or experience to farm. "A drought is usually in certain areas of a country, but AIDS is all over. It is an unbelievable impoverishment agent," Derek von Wissell, national director of Swaziland's National Emergency Response Council on HIV/AIDS, said. He added that from1992 to 2002, the proportion of women visiting prenatal clinics who tested HIV-positive rose from 4% to 38%, and in the same time period, per capita agricultural output dropped by more than one-third. Sarah Laughton, the World Food Programme's emergency coordinator in Swaziland, said that in the country, "the drought combined with illness has pushed people over the edge. Even if the rains come, they won't recover" (Thurow, Wall Street Journal, 7/9).