In Africa, AIDS and Famine Now Go Hand in Hand
July 10, 2003
Across southern Africa, some 7 million farmers have died from AIDS, according to official estimates, leaving many families with neither the means nor the experience to farm. The continuing AIDS crisis threatens to create chronic food shortages and leave large populations "reliant for their survival on a long-term program of international social welfare," said Alex de Waal, an official with the UN commission on AIDS and governance in Africa.
While Botswana and South Africa have great mineral wealth and considerable industrial development, in places like largely agrarian Swaziland, AIDS and food shortages are combining to unravel societies and destabilize populations in new ways. While drought usually occurs in specific areas, "AIDS is all over," said Derek von Wissell, national director of Swaziland's Emergency Response Council on HIV/AIDS.
In traditional famine, the first to die are generally children and the elderly. But in this new famine, AIDS is striking adults in the prime of life, and the young and old are left to cope. More than 15 percent of Swaziland's children under age 15 are orphaned, the government estimates. While international aid organizations say 10 percent of the nation's households are child-headed, even more are headed by grandparents too old and weak to farm.
To help the orphans, the national AIDS council is trying to revive old Swazi social structures, persuading about half the roughly 350 chiefdoms to set aside land to grow food communally for the children. And it is establishing social centers where orphans can be fed and have more contact with adults and other children.
This new famine is forcing international aid agencies to retool their strategies. Food relief is usually considered to be temporary -- but with AIDS and the prospect of no quick recovery, food relief becomes long-term care. Although southern Africa's drought has eased since last year, the UN's World Food Program recently issued another appeal to help feed the region.
Wall Street Journal
07.09.03; Roger Thurow
This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.