UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's Special Envoy for Humanitarian Needs in Southern Africa, James Morris, will visit the region next week in a bid to raise awareness of escalating needs in countries facing another year of food shortages.
Morris will be accompanied by Ann Veneman, the executive director of the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), on a two-day visit to Malawi, one of the countries "worst-affected by the regional dry spell, rising malnutrition rates, and HIV/AIDS," the World Food Programme (WFP) said in a statement.
During his 11-day mission, Morris also plans to visit Zambia, Botswana and Zimbabwe, while Veneman will travel to Swaziland, "her first field visit since taking up the top post at UNICEF at the beginning of May," WFP noted.
The countries have all been affected by what WFP terms the 'triple threat' of food insecurity, weakened capacity for governance and the impact of HIV/AIDS.
"The HIV/AIDS-driven crisis in the region is considered so grave that the Special Envoy [Morris] will hold a review meeting in Johannesburg on 25 May that will include the executive directors of UNICEF [Veneman] and UNAIDS, Peter Piot, as well as 10 country representatives from the United Nations system in Southern Africa. The meeting will examine current interventions, UN reform, and the need to gear up humanitarian response in the face of a more competitive environment for resources," WFP added.
Morris will meet with government officials, donor representatives and aid agencies, as well as visit projects and meet beneficiaries in Zambia and Malawi.
"It is already evident that, in addition to regional food shortages, funds for non-food items, such as medicines, healthcare, education, water and sanitation supplies, will be critically needed in the year ahead," WFP commented.
Morris was appointed UN Special Envoy in July 2002, three months after his appointment as executive director of WFP.
Although he plans to visit Zimbabwe, there has been no confirmation that he will be meeting President Robert Mugabe.
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