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HIV & Hunger Spell Death Spiral For Sthrn Africa

HIV And Hunger Spell 'Death Spiral' For Southern Africa - UN Relief Official

A "death spiral" of HIV and food insecurity is depleting public services and debilitating southern Africa, a United Nations relief official said today.

"The number of trained health practitioners, teachers and other professionals that are succumbing to HIV/AIDS is causing a truly extraordinary human resources vacuum in societies across the region," James T. Morris, Secretary-General Kofi Annan's Special Envoy for Humanitarian Needs in Southern Africa, said at a press conference in Johannesburg, South Africa.

"It's a tragedy of unrivalled proportions that is destroying the ability of countries to effectively deal with the pandemic and food insecurity," he added.

During his seven-day mission to the region, Mr. Morris visited Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland and Namibia to review how the UN and the international community could strengthen their assistance to the region's most vulnerable people in battling the combined effects of food insecurity, HIV/AIDS and the drain on human resources which the pandemic causes.

In all countries, factors such as already weakened infrastructure and services have also been exacerbated by increasing poverty, growing wealth disparity and women's lack of access to seeds, land, fertilizer and other productive resources.

Southern Africa has the highest rates of HIV infection in the world. There are already 11 million orphans in sub-Saharan Africa and the number is expected to reach more than 20 million by the end of the decade, according to the UN World Food Programme (WFP), which Mr. Morris heads.

"There are many factors at play here but the end result is that people are dying on a horrific scale and its victims are not getting the help they need," he warned.

Drawing an analogy, he pointed out that the loss of life was equivalent to dozens of airline accidents daily. "If a 747 aircraft crashed every hour, there'd be an international outcry," he said. "That's the death toll we're facing but there is inadequate collective outrage."

The UN Consolidated Appeal for southern Africa remains seriously underfunded, with only $327 million, or 53 per cent, in confirmed donations received out of a requested $615 million. Funds for non-food items, such as medicines, healthcare, education, water and sanitation supplies, are desperately needed, with only 16 per cent of resources for these items having been raised.

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