The United Nations envoy for the humanitarian crisis in southern Africa today said that the HIV/AIDS pandemic was playing a key role in the region's worsening situation.
Speaking in Zambia, where he was continuing his tour of the six countries most-affected by the food crisis, James Morris said that the disease has eroded the country's agricultural productivity by eliminating the able-bodied men and women who produce the nation's food.
While erratic weather has obviously contributed to the current food crisis in Zambia, HIV/AIDS was also clearly one of the key underlying factors in the depletion of human resources, he added.
"HIV/AIDS is devastating Zambian society," said Mr. Morris, who is also the head of the UN World Food Programme (WFP). "Tens of thousands of people have already died and many, many more are infected. One of the tragic consequences is a very rapid rise in the number of orphans, as well as households headed by children and elderly grandparents."
The UN estimates that 20 per cent of Zambia's adult population is infected with HIV/AIDS.
In July, the UN country team launched an appeal for $71 million to combat the humanitarian crisis in Zambia, but only $23 million has been received for the 2.3 million people at risk.
Mr. Morris said today that his team held talks with Zambia's Vice President and other key government officials to discuss how the UN agencies could continue to work closely with the country's Government to tackle the growing food crisis.
"Food shortages are becoming more and more critical in many parts of Zambia," Mr. Morris said. "Other priority concerns include the improvement of water and sanitation, and additional medical support."