SADC nations need improved nutrition to combat AIDS

Cape Town- South Africa (PANA) -- A UN official and a member of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) secretariat have urged SADC countries to substantially invest in agriculture in order to cope with the growing nutritional needs of the region's starving masses, especially people living with HIV/AIDS (PLHA).
In an address to SADC health ministers in Johannesburg on Monday on the relationship between famine, nutrition and HIV/AIDS in the region, Bunmi Makinwa, of UNAIDS, urged delegates to define linkages between HIV/AIDS and the food crisis.
The two factors, officials said, were threatening the socio- economic life-span of many sub-regional countries, where 14 million people are in desperate need of food, with five million of them living with the deadly pandemic.
Makinwa said the disease was having a direct impact on food security and nutrition for thousands of SADC households, most of whom depend heavily on agricultural products such as vegetables and fruits for good health.
"AIDS-related death in a farm household causes crop output to plummet -- often by up to 60 percent," Makinwa noted.
He further added that most SADC countries would be brought to their knees as a result of the dearth of skilled agriculture labour, whose expertise in tilling the land provides food to the nation.
More than 7 million agricultural workers have died in 25 African countries since 1985.
South Africa's Health Minister Manto Tshabalala Msimang, who chaired the two-day meeting, said the humanitarian crisis facing the region required a multi-pronged response.
She stressed that the meeting would look at, among other issues, traditional nutrition therapy and research and recommendations on specific nutrition supplements, such as the African potato.
"This meeting should be a platform for educating ourselves in how nutrition, nutritional supplements and traditional therapies can be of benefit in improving health and in management of debilitating conditions like HIV and AIDS," she said.
The meeting, which ends Tuesday, was planned to discuss and recommend plans to break life-threatening ties between malnutrition and HIV/AIDS, which experts warned needed to be arrested before destroying the region.

21 يناير 2003 12:16:00

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