Press Release 01/42
FAO DIRECTOR-GENERAL WARNS: AIDS IS SPREADING TO RURAL AREAS AND IS INCREASING
THE NUMBER OF HUNGRY PEOPLE
New York, 25 June - The AIDS epidemic is rapidly spreading to rural areas
in developing countries and is contributing to an increase in the number
of people who go to bed hungry every night, the Director-General of the
Rome-based UN Food and Agriculture Organization, Dr. Jacques Diouf, said
in a message delivered to the Special Session of the UN General Assembly
"HIV/AIDS is a major development problem, it is jeopardizing the basic human
right to food for millions of people in the developing world," Dr. Diouf
said. "HIV/AIDS poses a serious threat to the food security of the millions
who are infected and their families, both in terms of their capacity to produce
and to purchase their food."
HIV/AIDS diminishes people's ability to produce food because it takes its
death toll mostly among productive adults, Dr. Diouf said. FAO estimates
that HIV/AIDS has already killed around 7 million agricultural workers since
1985 in the 25 hardest-hit countries in Africa and that 16 million more may
die before 2020. Some countries could lose up to one quarter of their
agricultural labour force by that year.
HIV/AIDS also affects food security by impoverishing affected families and
hence reducing their ability to buy food, Dr. Diouf said. A study in one
African country showed that the cost of caring for a patient and meeting
the subsequent funeral expenses, exceeded the average annual farm income.
As a result, poor rural households sell their productive assets, including
their livestock, to care for the sick or pay the funeral expenses.
"Traditional safety nets, which contribute to food security in times of need,
are breaking down in the worst affected communities, where families and
neighbours become too overburdened to help each other with food, loans, a
hand in the fields or care of orphans," Dr. Diouf said.
"Furthermore, HIV/AIDS is affecting food security at the national level,
by reducing countries' ability to import food when needed. It has been estimated
that it is currently reducing annual GDP growth per capita by 0.8% in Africa.
Many of the worst affected countries are low-income food-deficit countries
(LIFDC), and many are also highly indebted poor countries (HIPC). Their
difficulties to import food are thus being exacerbated," the FAO Director-General
Rural communities bear a higher share of the cost of the pandemic, as many
urban dwellers and migrant labourers naturally return to their home villages
when they become sick, Dr. Diouf said. "At the same time as remittances from
these former migrant members of the household dry up, expenditures to meet
medical bills and funeral expenses rise. As the number of productive family
members declines, the number of dependants grows."
"Poverty, widespread in rural areas, leads to poor nutrition and poor health,
which make people more vulnerable to HIV infection," Dr. Diouf said. "Poor
nutrition can also shorten the incubation period of the virus, causing symptoms
to appear sooner. This situation is especially severe for the rural poor,
who have the least access to medical care."
Armed conflict, typically fought in rural areas, also increases vulnerability
to HIV/AIDS because of sexual violence, displacement of people and destitution.
Gender inequality is one of the driving forces behind the spread of HIV,
Dr. Diouf said. "Access to resources including land, credit, knowledge, training
and technology, is strongly determined along gender lines, with men frequently
having more access to all of these than women. With the death of her husband,
a wife may be left without the access she had gained through him or his clan,
and her livelihood, and that of her children, is immediately threatened.
Gender imbalances are worsening through this process."
"By 1999 there were 13.2 million AIDS orphans, 95 % of them in sub-Saharan
Africa. The resulting dramatic increase in child-headed households also
contributes to food insecurity," Dr. Diouf said. "Many children are losing
their parents before learning basic agricultural skills and nutrition or
health knowledge." A study in Kenya showed that only 7 percent of agricultural
households headed by orphans had adequate knowledge for the most basic
agricultural tasks. Not surprisingly, severe food insecurity among orphans
is already reported in the worst affected areas.
"Unless national governments, international bodies and organizations of civil
society step up their efforts, the vicious circle of poverty, hunger and
HIV/AIDS will not be broken. Indeed, it will intensify," Dr. Diouf said.
Dr. Diouf said that he hopes that the "World Food Summit: five years later",
to be held in Rome 5-9 November 2001, will contribute to breaking this vicious
circle. The purpose of the Summit is to raise both the political will and
the financial resources to fight hunger.
For further information, please call Erwin Northoff, Media Relations Officer
+39 06 5705 3105); e-mail:
firstname.lastname@example.org, or Michael
Hage, cel phone: +1 703.8626075; e-mail:
email@example.com or consult the FAO home page the article under FAO
Focus: Aids - a threat
to rural Africa and
Taking stock 20 years
after the discovery of AIDS
1) It is a fact, today: the HIV/AIDS epidemic is not a pure Health matter.
It affects society at large in all its vital sectors; it affects the lives
of the most vulnerable urban and rural committees. The FAO warns that the
epidemic is becoming a major threat to agricultural production in developing
countries. The impact of the disease in rural areas, where the food is produced,
must be addressed. This is also the opinion of national experts.
Mrs. Dinah K. Kasangaki is one of the Agricultural Officers in the Ugandan
Ministry of Animal Industry and Fisheries, in Entebbe, who is convinced that
HIV/AIDS must be considered in the Ministry's Programme.
In Realaudio (Instant play, 418 Kb)
In mp3 (Broadcast quality, 1540Kb to be downloaded)
2)The need for action is clear. One of the powerful forces in the fight against
HIV/AIDS in the countryside are Civil Society Organisations.
Christine Namusisi Obuya is a Social Agent, member of well-known national
NGO, the National Change Agent Association (UCAA). UCAA was created
in 1992. Its purpose is to ensure that trained Change Agents are effectively
facilitating self-reliant participatory development processes in their rural
communities. Interview with Liliane Kambirigi (FAO).
In Realaudio (Instant play, 700 Kb)
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