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Breakfast Tuesday, 25 February, 2003, 11:34 GMT
Breakfast in Malawi
This week on Breakfast, we're showing a special series of reports from Malawi by the actress Claire Sweeney.

She's been there to witness at first hand the work of the Disasters Emergency Committee - which co-ordinates Britain's leading aid charities - in tackling the growing famine and Aids crisis in Southern Africa.

And, to begin the series, we invited Claire and the DEC's Brendan Gormley into our studios for a special live interactive forum.




Claire Sweeney spent a week touring villages and projects designed to help sufferers.

Although $16 million has been raised since appeals for urgent food aid to the region last year, she stressed that more still had to be done.

The money's made a difference but there's still a long way to go.

  • The United Nations says Aids is the principle cause of death in Africa, and is the fourth cause of death globally.

  • Figures from UNAids show that 29.4 million people in sub-Saharan Africa have either HIV or Aids.

  • Almost three million are children under the age of 15, while 3.5 million people were infected last year alone and 2.4 million died.

  • HIV/Aids is at the heart of the food crisis in sub-Saharan Africa - in some areas, as many as one in three people is affected.
    Claire Sweeney says "There is still grounds for optimism."

  • Malawi, Zimbabwe and Zambia have an estimated three million Aids orphans. And the child mortality rate is as high as one in five and life expectancy as low as 29, according to the World Health Organisation.

    Claire, who lost a close friend to Aids two years ago, and is patron of an Aids charity, said:

    All people are talking about is starvation and hunger. But the prime factor is Aids. People are too ill to work. That's what's causing the problem.

    Among the heart-breaking scenes she saw on the Save the Children trip were entire families living with the disease and children bloated through malnutrition.

    Yet despite the bleak picture, Miss Sweeney said there was still grounds for optimism - educational programmes have been set up and with the people's pride, strength and spirit, they could turn the corner.

  • On Thursday, Claire looks at famine in Malawi
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