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Spectre of famine still looms for fragile Malawi, UN envoy warns

Spectre of famine still looms for fragile Malawi, UN envoy warns

The United Nations top humanitarian envoy for southern Africa has warned that the food security situation in Malawi remains fragile and slight gains made to avert famine could be easily eroded by a combination of HIV/AIDS, late rains and floods.

Continuing his week-long, five-nation mission in southern Africa, James Morris, Secretary-General Kofi Annan's Special Envoy for Humanitarian Needs in the region, said yesterday that despite rapid response from the international community, the crisis is "far from over and the situation remains so fragile that gains could be easily eroded." HIV/AIDS, late rains and floods are threatening this year's upcoming harvest, placing millions of people at risk of starvation.

The envoy, who travelled to one of the worst flood-affected districts during his visit to Malawi, said that along with the converging HIV/AIDS and hunger crises, floods earlier this month caused by Cyclone Delfina wreaked havoc throughout the country, destroying hundreds of acres of desperately needed maize, the staple food. More than 30,000 people were displaced by the floods, which also caused significant damage to roads, bridges and railway lines.

Mr. Morris said that at the root of the humanitarian crisis in Malawi, along with erratic weather and chronic poverty, "is the HIV/AIDS pandemic, which is threatening the lives and livelihoods of millions of people." About 14 per cent of the country's population is infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. The virus worsens the effects that famine has on people due to their weakened immune systems.