U.N. Envoy for Southern Africa Touring Region To Examine Effects of HIV/AIDS, Food Shortages, Government Policies
The U.N. Secretary General's Special Envoy for Southern Africa James Morris on Sunday began an 11-day tour of Zambia, Botswana, Malawi and Zimbabwe to examine the impact of HIV/AIDS, the threat of food shortages and the effects of poor governance in the region, BBC News reports. Morris, who was appointed to the position in July 2002 and is taking his fifth trip to the region, plans to meet with government officials and not-for-profit groups doing work in the four countries (Miles, BBC News, 5/22). On Wednesday, Morris plans to travel to Johannesburg, South Africa, for a meeting with UNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot, UNICEF Executive Director Ann Veneman and 10 U.N. representatives of countries in the region to discuss current HIV/AIDS programs, U.N. reforms and the need to ramp up humanitarian responses to the epidemic, according to a U.N. World Food Programme statement, IRIN News reports. Veneman also will accompany Morris on a two-day visit to Malawi, as well as make her first trip to Swaziland, according to the statement (IRIN News, 5/19). Morris' primary focus on the tour will be Zimbabwe, according to BBC News (BBC News, 5/22). Zimbabwe has a "critical" food shortage, which is due in part to the impact that HIV/AIDS has had on decreasing the country's agricultural productivity, according to WFP, London's Guardian reports. Zimbabwe has an estimated 25% HIV prevalence rate. It is "not clear" what kind of reception Morris will receive from Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe, who ended U.N. food aid last year and said last week he would accept aid only if it came with no political conditions, according to the Guardian (Meldrum, Guardian, 5/23). "I embark on this trip with a heavy heart. To see such suffering, such lost potential, so many lives lost, makes it very hard to keep up hope for the future," Morris said, adding, "Yet amidst all this suffering, I have seen tremendous resilience, dignity and determination" (WFP statement, 5/22).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.