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International News

Africa's Hunger Crisis Could Persist for Generations, Aid Groups Warn

April 9, 2003

About 38 million Africans are threatened by starvation this year from a food crisis that relief workers predict could last for generations because of AIDS. "The stark message is this crisis is not going away. We will have a perpetual crisis," said Brenda Barton, World Food Program spokesperson in Nairobi, Kenya.

"We are seeing a redefinition of famine, of humanitarian crises as we know them," Barton said. Within the UN that new definition is known as "new variant famine." It means that despite the best efforts of aid groups and donors, population losses to AIDS are wrecking agriculture, economies and health systems.

Some 29 million people in sub-Saharan Africa are HIV-infected, about 70 percent of the world's total. Overall, 9 percent of adults in the region of 633 million people are infected, but the rate ranges up to nearly 40 percent in some places. In those countries life expectancy has already fallen into the 30s because of the growing pandemic. In less than 20 years, the UN says, AIDS has killed more than 8 million farm workers in Africa. It has killed the breadwinner in millions of families, devastated poor villages, and orphaned 4.2 million children.

Donor response to the current food crisis is adequate so far, but aid workers worry that the war in Iraq and humanitarian needs elsewhere may cut into the help coming to Africa. Bad governance and widespread corruption have contributed to the fall and the lasting hunger crisis.

The World Food Program's country director in Zambia, Richard Ragan, said the single biggest factor in the persistent hunger crisis is the AIDS pandemic. "It permeates everything you do in this part of the world," he said. AIDS lowers production, increases poverty and inhibits the ability of agencies to react to crises. To conquer hunger, the UN and African governments must wage an all-out, coordinated campaign against AIDS, Ragan said. "If they don't, it is going to decimate the entire continent, he said.

Back to other CDC news for April 9, 2003

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Adapted from:
Associated Press
04.05.03; Terry Leonard

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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.
See Also
More on HIV/AIDS in Africa