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Southern Africa Vulnerable Without Massive International Food Aid


The head of the World Food Program says more than $300 million is needed to provide food to southern Africa, as drought, deteriorating economies and HIV/AIDS have combined to devastate communities across the region.

The World Food Program's chief, James Morris, says about 540,000 tons of food is needed to feed 6.5 million people in the six countries comprising southern Africa.

He said that as long as people lack the needed resources, like food, to cope with the crisis, they will remain vulnerable to natural disasters such as flood and drought, as well as the economic and political turmoil and HIV/AIDS raging through southern Africa. The area has the highest HIV prevalence rates in the world.

"In many respects, food is the most important issue in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Sixty percent of the people affected by AIDS in this part of the world are women. Women do 80 percent of the agricultural work. The use of anti-retroviral medicine cannot be effective unless the person has good nutrition and has an adequate food supply," he said.

Mr. Morris said the World Food Program has substantially increased both the calorie and protein content of its daily food allotment for people at risk of HIV/AIDS. He said the continuing food crisis affects mainly Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Lesotho and Swaziland, while Zambia and Malawi have produced better harvests this year than last. But Mr. Morris added that across the region, there has been an alarming increase in the number of households headed by children.

"You have 11 million orphans in sub-Saharan Africa, and that number will go to 20 million by the year 2010. The most emotional experiences I have had this year have been spending time with families headed by a child," he said.

Mr. Morris said there are 38,000 deaths a week from HIV/AIDS in Zimbabwe, the country hardest hit by drought. In Zambia, he said, two out of three households that have lost a mother have dissolved.

The WFP chief said food shortages are likely to persist as long as HIV/AIDS hinders agricultural productivity in the region.