Armed Conflict, HIV/AIDS Pandemic Leading Causes of Hunger Worldwide, Report Says
Armed conflict, the HIV/AIDS pandemic, natural disasters and climate change are the leading causes of hunger worldwide, according to a report released on Monday by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization during the 31st Session of the Committee on World Food Security in Rome, Reuters AlertNet reports (Reuters AlertNet, 5/23). The report, titled "Assessment of the World Food Security Situation," says that the Millennium Development Goal of reducing by half the number of hungry people in the world by 2015 -- established by the World Food Summit in 1996 -- is "almost certain to be missed by a wide margin if current trends persist," according to a FAO release. However, the report also finds that the target of reducing the proportion of people affected by extreme poverty and hunger by 2015 might be achieved in most regions except sub-Saharan Africa (FAO release, 5/23). "Peace encourages investments and allows social and economic development. Conflict destroys lives, opportunities and environments," the report says, adding, "It can destroy in hours and days what has taken years and decades to develop" (AFP/Yahoo! News, 5/23). The report also says that armed conflict "contributes to the spread of HIV/AIDS through displacement, rape or commercial sex" (Reuters AlertNet, 5/23).
U.N. Envoy for Southern Africa Tours Region
The U.N. Secretary General's Special Envoy for Southern Africa James Morris on Monday held talks on food aid in the Zambian capital, Lusaka, as part of a four-country tour to examine the impact of HIV/AIDS, the threat of food shortages and the effects of drought in the region, AFP/Yahoo! News reports (AFP/Yahoo! News, 5/23). Morris on Tuesday called for an increase in international aid to Zambia, which he said has experienced long periods of drought, causing a drastic reduction in agricultural output. "Sadly, it is a pattern that we are seeing in many parts of Southern Africa and widespread relief assistance will be required," he said, adding that Zambia is experiencing a crisis further compounded by the HIV/AIDS epidemic, "which is undermining the country's ability to respond to the humanitarian needs" (Xinhua News Agency, 5/24). Morris also plans to visit Malawi, Botswana and Zimbabwe during his 11-day tour and is expected to discuss international food aid with Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe (AFP/Yahoo! News, 5/23). 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 pandemic (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/23).
Protect African Children From HIV/AIDS
Veneman on Tuesday in Dvumbe, Swaziland, said that wealthy nations must help protect African children from HIV/AIDS, Reuters AlertNet reports. "Children are the future of the world, the future of this continent. It is so important that we have ways of keeping them healthy ... and protecting them from HIV/AIDS," she said, adding, "Much more could be done; we all know much more could be done." Veneman also said individuals and governments should make African children a higher priority. Veneman said she chose Southern Africa as her first trip as UNICEF executive director in order to increase awareness about the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the region. "We thought it was very important on my first mission at UNICEF that I visit Africa and in particular we chose Southern Africa ... to highlight the difficulties in these countries because of HIV/AIDS," she said. Swaziland has the world's highest HIV prevalence rate, with more than 40% of adults living with HIV/AIDS, according to UNICEF. Veneman also plans to visit South Africa and Malawi (Harrison, Reuters AlertNet, 5/24).