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Tuesday, 26 November, 2002, 14:01 GMT
Malawi famine blamed on Aids
An estimated 3m people are at risk of famine
An Aids epidemic in Malawi has contributed to the country's worst famine in living memory.

More than one in seven of the 12 million people living in Malawi have HIV.

The disease has wreaked havoc in towns and cities across the country. It has also had a devastating impact on many farming communities.

Increasingly, families are now headed by women, children or grandparents. Many lack the skills and labour to run their farms.

A recent United Nations report found that HIV was responsible for growing food shortages across the country.

Devastation

It revealed that the disease has left many families unable to earn a living as key breadwinners are struck down.

One study, published earlier this year, suggested that about 70% of households have seen their income fall because of sickness.


Malawi's longstanding and severe HIV/Aids epidemic is a powerful contributing factor to the food crisis in this country

UNAids report
It also revealed that half of the country's farming families had delayed harvesting their own crops so that members could earn vital cash elsewhere.

This practice has seen some farms losing part of or all of their crops.

In other areas, families have left land fallow because there is no one to look after the crops.

"About a quarter of poor households have been switching their crop mixes, abandoning certain crops or leaving land fallow if household members are seriously ill," a report by UNAids says.

This situation has been compounded by adverse weather conditions and a poor economy.

The government's decision to scale back a successful free seeds and fertilizer programme contributed to a slump in food production.

The UNAids report also highlights an over-reliance on maize, high inflation and poor management of farming resources as factors.

In addition, a labour shortage caused by HIV has created major problems across the country.

According to the UN, the country's current food crisis is inextricably linked to its HIV epidemic.

"Malawi's longstanding and severe HIV/Aids epidemic is a powerful contributing factor to the food crisis in this country," the report states.

According to the UN, an estimated 3m people are currently at risk from the growing food crisis.


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02 Jul 02 | Health
04 Apr 02 | Health
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