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International News

Southern Africa Food Crisis Exacerbated by HIV/AIDS Epidemic, UN Officials Say

September 27, 2002

James Morris, the UN special envoy to the southern African hunger crisis, warned Thursday that about 14.4 million people in Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Lesotho, Swaziland and Mozambique will be at risk of starvation by March. Compounding their miseries is the rampaging HIV/AIDS crisis, said Morris, who will meet Friday with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to mobilize help.

"HIV/AIDS has essentially changed the dynamics of life in many of these six countries," Morris told reporters. "The crisis within a crisis -- the HIV/AIDS crisis -- is enormous. This is a catastrophe in the world, that in some respects, is unprecedented." The UN has appealed for $611 million to help prevent millions of deaths in Africa, Morris said.

Previously, the UN had estimated that about 12.8 million people were at risk of starvation before next year's harvest begins in April. But the situation has been compounded by drought, disease and government policies that have kept food from reaching the hungriest people, Morris said.

Adult AIDS rates in the affected countries range from 13 percent to 35 percent, and food shortages are exacerbating the effects of the disease. The region is home to some 4.2 million orphans, Morris said -- half of them orphaned by AIDS. The World Food Program is reviewing its food basket for Africa and increasing calories and providing more protein for children. Children starved for long periods remain stunted -- as are 55 percent of Zambian children, Morris estimated.

Politics are complicating the crisis. Zambia has refused to accept U.S.-donated corn because it might be genetically modified -- a policy Zambia's president is set to review. In Zimbabwe, which "used to produce enough food to feed the region," Morris said, the crisis has been worsened by President Robert Mugabe's policy of seizing white-owned farms. "There is virtually no commercial crop being produced in Zimbabwe right now," Morris said.

Back to other CDC news for September 27, 2002

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Adapted from:
Associated Press
09.26.02; Ranjan Roy

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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