HIV/AIDS, Drought, Job Loss Contributing to Food Shortages in Southern Africa
Although drought conditions in much of Southern Africa have "devastated crops," residents in some areas of the region say that the "real problems" contributing to food shortages are high unemployment rates and the AIDS-related deaths of many farm workers, Reuters reports. Development advocates say this year's regional harvest likely will be worse than in 2002, when about 10 million people did not have sufficient food supplies, and the U.N. World Food Programme says the incoming crop might be the worst since 1992, according to Reuters. Drought conditions in the southeastern African nations of Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi and parts of Mozambique have "all but destroyed" the region's "staple" maize crop, but in Swaziland and Lesotho, which are farther south, the weather is "less to blame" for crop failure, Reuters reports. U.N. assessments of the food shortage are ongoing, and a fundraising campaign for aid could begin later this month or in early June, Reuters reports (Apps, Reuters, 5/3). Researchers last month at a World Health Organization meeting on nutrition and HIV/AIDS in Durban, South Africa, estimated that about 20% of Southern African agricultural workers are expected to die of AIDS-related causes by 2020, which could threaten food production and worsen food shortages (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/15). In a "good year," Lesotho produces only 30% of the food the country needs, in part because of the deaths of farm workers and loss of family farming knowledge, according to Reuters. Approximately 30% of adults in Lesotho are HIV-positive. "It's still very early to say how bad things will be," Ann Witteveen, coordinator of the not-for-profit development group Oxfam International, said, adding, "But we're in a better situation than we were three years ago. There's more capacity. We've got a better understanding" (Reuters, 5/3).This is part of the Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.