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UN warns of economic collapse and insecurity

[Zambia] Food aid from the World Food Programme is distributed by Tearfund
partners in the Luangawa Valley, southern Zambia, where 16000 people are in need of help.
Zambia rejected GM food aid (Marcus Perkins/Tearfund)

Around 12 million of Southern Africa’s 60-million people may die prematurely of AIDS alone unless prompt and decisive action is taken to respond to the region’s humanitarian crisis, United Nations agencies have warned.

All indications are that Southern Africa would suffer "nothing short of a decimation of populations in their most productive years”, the UN Inter Agency Standing Committee said in a statement issued on Tuesday.

This brought with it “the prospect of economic collapse and insecurity in the foreseeable future".

Many more people are likely to die as a result of food shortages, malnutrition and poor health services, the agencies’ statement continued.

Last year, the agencies appealed for a total of US $613-million to assist Southern Africa in the face of drought and famine. But donations have only reached 57 percent of that goal, the statement said.

The donations received from the international community have been distributed unevenly between the provision of food and health care.

Of the US $509-million requested for food aid, 64 percent of the goal has been reached. But only 11 per cent of the US $48-million sought for health needs has been raised.

With HIV/AIDS now hitting women the hardest, entire communities were collapsing, raising doubts about the prospects for eventual recovery from the combined threats of the disease and famine, the agencies noted.

Ensuring equal access to health care and medication for people
living with HIV/AIDS was one of the specific actions identified by the agencies for alleviating the crisis.

On Tuesday, James Morris, the World Food Programme’s Executive Director, began a mission to Southern Africa to determine how best the international community can assist those at risk, women in particular.

The mission will also examine strategies to support governments in the region in their efforts to improve the provision of social services.

Morris is accompanied by Stephen Lewis, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information:

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