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A 65-year-old Malawian woman with six of her nine grandchildren, whose parents have died of AIDS (UNICEF/HQ93-0757/Andrew)

Food security

HIV/AIDS takes its toll on food security in a number of ways. For example:

  HIV increases fatigue and decreases work productivity, which means less food on the table. In households coping with sick family members, food consumption generally decreases. As adults fall ill, families face increasing medical and health care costs, thus reducing the possibility for them to purchase the food that they can no longer produce.

  While the number of productive family members decline, the number of dependants grows, as households lose adults and take in orphans of dead relatives, further threatening household food security.

  Rural communities face a greater burden of care as many sick urban dwellers and migrant labourers return to their village homes. As more household members die, families face declining productivity, loss of knowledge of indigenous farming methods and the continual depletion of assets.

  Research in Tanzania showed that per capita food consumption in the poorest households decreased by 15 percent when an adult died. A study carried out in Uganda showed that food insecurity and malnutrition were foremost among the immediate problems faced by female-headed, AIDS-affected households.

In addition to household food security, national food production is also affected by the loss of agricultural workers, especially in countries where agriculture forms a large part of the gross domestic product.

related links
Committee on World Food Security: Food Security and HIV/AIDS: An update
the report of the Special Envoy of the Secretary General for Humanitarian Needs in Southern Africa (pdf)
HIV/AIDS, agriculture and food security in mainland and small island countries of Africa
Integrated Support to Sustainable Development and Food Security Programme
HIV/AIDS impacts and cross-sectoral responses (pdf)
FAO HIV/AIDS and Forestry website
Nontimber Forest Benefits and HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa
more FAO publications

  contact:   © FAO, 2006