Drought, Disease, Poverty Hitting Southern Africa
By Evelyn Leopold
Tue Jul 24, 10:55 PM ET
Drought, AIDS and chronic poverty in the landlocked southern African states
of Lesotho, Swaziland and Zimbabwe are putting hundreds of thousands at risk of
hunger, a U.N. official said on Tuesday.
"You have got very severe drought in three countries, some of the worst
harvests on record in Swaziland and an incredibly high levels of HIV/AIDS in
Lesotho," John Holmes, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator, told reporters.
"This is occurring on the basis of very vulnerable populations to start
with," he said.
Carol Bellamy, the former director of UNICEF, the U.N. children's fund, in
2002 used the phrase "perfect storm" in relation to several southern Africa
countries -- drought, environmental degradation, near starvation and AIDS
sapping the strength of the working population.
Asked if the situation was approaching a "perfect storm" now, Holmes said,
"You could say that," because there there was a triple threat in all three
countries, who have suffered from poverty for years.
In Swaziland, with only 1 million people, a third of all people between 15
and 49 are afflicted with HIV/AIDS. The harvest is the worst ever, prompting the
government in June to declare a national disaster.
Holmes said that more than 400,000 people in Swaziland will require
humanitarian assistance, and requested $15.6 million in emergency
Lesotho earlier this month declared a food emergency and an appeal will be
issued shortly, Holmes said.
The tiny country has experienced the most severe drought in the last 30
years, which slashed the corn harvest by more than 40 percent. More than 400,000
people, or a fifth of the population, need emergency food aid.
In Zimbabwe, where diplomats blame some of the disaster on the policies of
its leader, Robert Mugabe, about half of the financial appeals have been
An earlier appeal for $253 million has drawn a response of $123 million with
nearly $100 million donated by the United States, Holmes said.