WHO News

Health aid as well as food aid needed in southern Africa

Food aid must be accompanied by health services if devastating loss of life is to be averted in southern Africa, WHO pointed out on 5 August. In addition to the US$ 500 million needed for food, US$ 40 million is needed for health and nutrition interventions.

Adverse health conditions triggered by drought have put 12–14 million people at risk in the region. The crisis has been exacerbated by a long period of deterioration in the health services associated with the AIDS epidemic and economic difficulties. "We are particularly concerned about data coming in from the field showing a doubling of lifetime risk of maternal mortality in some areas, and the continuing rise in tuberculosis, acute respiratory infections and malaria," said Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, WHO's Director-General. "We fear there could be at least 300 000 'extra' deaths during the next six months because of the crisis."

A survey in Malawi showed the levels of malnutrition in children rising from 6% to 19% in three months. The current estimates are that 7 million people need food aid now, and that this will have risen to 12.8 million by the end of the year. To date, the World Food Programme has been feeding 4.6 million people. "We're staring catastrophe in the face," said James Morris, Executive Director of the Programme, and the UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy to the region. "With each passing month the situation will get worse if we don't receive more food, water and medicine."

Further information can be obtained from Gregory Hartl, Communications Adviser (email: hartlg@who.int).

World Health Organization Genebra - Genebra - Switzerland