James Morris, special envoy for humanitarian needs in southern Africa, and Stephen Lewis, the special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, are in Zambia to assess the impact of the combination of famine and HIV/AIDS on the local population.
Speaking ahead of the field visit to Chibombo, where they are to see how conservation farming is helping Zambian farmers increase harvests, Morris explained that they traveled as a team to southern Africa to publicize the relationship between hunger, food security and HIV/AIDS.
"Our mission is unique in that Stephen Lewis and I are doing this together. (UN Secretary General) Kofi Annan asked Stephen and I to do this together, to dramatise, to emphasise the relationship between hunger, food security, HIV/AIDS and what is essentially happening in this part of the world," Morris said.
He stressed that Annan "cares more deeply and personally about these issues in this part of the world ... than anything else."
Briefing the two envoys, who are accompanied by secretary-general of the Southern Africa Development Community, Prega Ramaswamy, Zambian President Levy Mwananwasa outlined the kind of interventions which his government had adopted in the hope of attaining food security and mitigating the effects of the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
"Agriculture in this country contributes about 25 percent of the national gross domestic product and provides employment to about 50 percent of the population."
"Sadly, as a result of the drought, the agricultural sector is facing serious challenges that have led to the inability of most households to obtain food from their own production," Mwananwasa noted.
This, he added, has contributed to high levels of poverty, HIV/AIDS, chronic malnutrition and macroeconomic decline.
The two envoys are winding up their tour of southern Africa after visiting Lesotho, Zimbabwe and Malawi.
The UN estimates that at least 15 million people in this region are threatened by a combination of severe food shortages, worsened by the critical drought of 2002 and the HIV/AIDS pandemic that has severely curtailed food production.
- Pan African News Agency
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