- ROME (Reuters) - HIV/AIDS
is devastating farming and worsening hunger in sub-Saharan Africa, the
United Nations world food body said on Tuesday.
- In Africa's 25 most affected countries, 7 million farm
workers had died from AIDS since 1985 and 16 million more might die within
the next 20 years, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said
in a report called ``The State of Food and Agriculture 2001.''
- ``FAO expects the HIV/AIDS epidemic to exacerbate food
insecurity,'' the report said.
- ``It is clear that the epidemic is undermining the progress
made in agriculture and rural development over the last 40 years.''
- Africa, with about 10% of the world's population, accounts
for 9 out of each 10 new cases of HIV infection.
- Eighty-three percent of all AIDS deaths are in Africa.
- HIV/AIDS is now the leading cause of death in sub-Saharan
Africa. FAO's Assistant Director-General Hartwig de Haen said authorities
needed to raise awareness of AIDS among affected populations, encourage
prevention strategies and boost food aid distribution in badly hit areas.
- ``There may be a need to change production systems to
less labour-intensive crops,'' de Haen told a news briefing. FAO said recent
UN studies showed output by smallholders in parts of Zimbabwe might have
fallen by 50% over the past 5 years, mainly as a result of AIDS.
- Labour shortages are particularly serious for agriculture
since production is seasonal and timing is crucial. A shortfall in household
labour means more land becomes fallow and the household's output declines.
- HIV/AIDS was also having a big impact on agricultural
estates, FAO said. ``Evidence from one sugar estate in Kenya suggests that
the epidemic adds substantially to costs,'' the report said.
- ``Profitability has been undermined by increased absenteeism
owing to sickness, substantially reduced productivity and higher overtime
costs as other workers replace their sick colleagues.''
- Over an 8-year period in the 1990s, spending on funerals
and health costs at the estate rose fivefold and tenfold, respectively.
The company, which was not identified, had estimated that about three quarters
of all illness among employees was related to HIV infection.
- The impact on the livestock sector was also severe. Evidence
from Namibia and Uganda indicated that livestock was often sold to support
the sick and to cover funeral expenses.
- ``Selling livestock eats into a household's savings,
making them more vulnerable to new shocks,'' the report said.
- ``The drop in livestock numbers means a reduced availability
of organic material and hence increased pressure on soil fertility.''
- Recent evidence from Tanzania suggested that food spending
by poor households can drop by nearly a third after the death of a young