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Humanitarian agencies call for action on HIV/AIDS

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(United Nations, 21 January 2003) - In a statement today, heads of the world's major humanitarian agencies called on the international community to respond appropriately to the human tragedy now unfolding in Southern Africa as a result of a combination of severe drought, the HIV/AIDS pandemic and growing poverty. The statement warns that all indications are that Southern Africa will suffer "nothing short of a decimation of populations in their most productive years, and the prospect of economic collapse and insecurity in the foreseeable future." With the disease now hitting women the hardest, entire communities are collapsing, which calls into question the prospects for eventual recovery from the combined threats of HIV/AIDS and famine. It also notes that, failing decisive action now and large-scale funding, an estimated 20% of the total adult population of 60 million people - 12 million people - will die prematurely just due to HIV/AIDS alone. This number will increase due to food shortages, malnutrition and poor health services. The agency heads identified specific actions that need to be undertaken to mitigate the crisis.
The UN appealed on behalf of 16 million people in six Southern African countries at risk from a combination of factors that have resulted in severe food shortages. Thus far, the appeal has received 57% of the total amount of $613 million required, but the contributions have not been distributed evenly. While the food sector has received 64.8% of the $509 million required, donors have provided just 11.6% of the $48.2 million required for health sector interventions.

Today, Mr. James Morris, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Humanitarian Needs in Southern Africa, accompanied by Mr. Stephen Lewis, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for HIV/AIDS in Africa, begin their joint mission to Southern Africa. Prega Ramsamy, the Executive Director of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) is among the mission members, which also include representatives from UN Development Programme (UNDP), UN World Food Programme, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), the World Health Organisation (WHO), and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). The mission will consult widely with humanitarian and development agencies to determine how best the United Nations system and international community can assist those at risk, especially women. It will also examine strategies to support Governments in the region in their efforts to improve the provision of social services.

For the full text of the "Statement Attributable to the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) and UNAIDS on the Worsening Impact of HIV/AIDS on Food Security and Human Survival in Southern Africa," please see www.reliefweb.int. The IASC is comprised of both members, FAO, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, UNDP, UN Population Fund (UNFPA), UNICEF, UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR),WFP, WHO and standing invitees International Committee for the Red Cross, International Committee for Voluntary Agencies (ICVA), International Federation for the Red Cross (IFRC), InterAction, International Organisation for Migration(IOM), the Steering Committee on Humanitarian Response(SCHR), the Representative of the Secretary-General for Internally Displaced Persons, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), and the World Bank. As Standing Invitee, the ICRC keeps its independence towards policy statements issued by the IASC and its subsidiary bodies.

For further information please contact:

New York: Phyllis Lee (212) 963-4832
Geneva: Elisabeth Byrs (+41-22-917 2653)