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UN Urges World Leaders to Focus on Humanitarian Crisis in Southern Africa


The heads of United Nations agencies are calling on world leaders to re-focus on what they say is a chronic humanitarian crisis in Southern Africa.

The United Nations says several countries in Southern Africa are experiencing the triple threat of HIV/AIDS, a declining capacity for work, and food insecurity. Special Envoy James Morris and the Executive Directors of UNICEF and UNAIDS say these problems have resulted in a chronic humanitarian crisis in the region.

Mr. Morris says it is a crisis that is now headed into an acute phase in which seven million people, double the current figure, will not survive without food aid.

"Livestock, much more precarious condition to several years ago; groundwater tables are way down; we know what the rainfall patterns have been and we know that we are headed toward a very, very serious situation and we are going to need a lot of help from the donor community to get through this," he said.

Mr. Morris says since the last drought-induced emergency, many countries in the region have been making real progress to change their farming practices and emergency management systems. But he said the high incidence of HIV/AIDS has complicated and compounded the demands on countries.

"You know all of this fits so tightly together," said Mr. Morris. "If you have food, you are less vulnerable to AIDS, but if you are AIDS infected you are less productive. You know seven million farmers in sub-Saharan Africa have lost their lives ... it is a devastating impact on food production."

Apart from South Africa, most countries in Southern Africa require food assistance. The United Nations team says Malawi, Zambia, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Swaziland have the greatest need.