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HIV/AIDS Contributes to Malnutrition of Children in Developing Countries, UNICEF Report Says

May 4, 2006

About 146 million, or 27% of children in developing countries are underweight, many "to a life-threatening degree," partly because of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, according to a UNICEF report released on Tuesday, London's Guardian reports (Guardian, 5/2). "The profound impact of HIV/AIDS in [sub-Saharan Africa] inevitably affects its nutritional position," the report says, adding that the pandemic is worsening already decreased food production in the region and has limited parents' capacity to provide care for their children. The report finds that, despite a U.N. Millennium Development Goal of reducing by half the number of underweight children worldwide by 2015, the number of undernourished children in East and Southern Africa has increased since 1990 (Reuters South Africa, 5/3). Saba Mebrahtu, UNICEF's senior regional nutrition advisor, at a news conference in Johannesburg, South Africa, said that HIV/AIDS has affected nutritional improvement in Southern Africa (Xinhuanet, 5/2). However, the proportion of children in Botswana who are underweight dropped from 17% in 1996 to 13% in 2000, despite the country having one of the highest HIV prevalence rates in the world (Reuters, 5/3). The report also says that "undernutrition accelerates HIV disease progression -- and therefore mortality rates" ("Progress for Children -- A Report Card on Nutrition," May 2006). According to the report, other major factors contributing to the number of underweight children are a lack of education, food shortages, inequality, unsafe feeding practices, diarrheal illness and malaria as well as war (Guardian, 5/2).

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