September 7, 2001

German Minister says Aids undermines food security

From Patrick Mwale in Bonn, Germany
from the Zimbabwe Daily News



AIDS has killed up to seven million people working in agriculture in the 25 hardest-hit African countries, seriously disrupting food production, a conference on sustainable food security heard in Bonn on Tuesday.

Hiedenmarie Wieczorek-Zeul, Germany’s federal minister for economic co-operation and development, said malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/Aids, which constitute the greatest health threat in developing nations, had very serious consequences on food security. Wieczorek-Zeul, citing figures released by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), said the scourge was likely to claim another 20 million lives in developing countries over the next two decades. “This has a major impact on food production and threatens the life of rural communities,” she said.

Studies have shown a clear link between people’s economic and social productivity and their health and food status. “Aids is not just a disaster for the people who are infected, but undermines the food security of the entire population and thus the development of the countries concerned,” she said. The minister said food in sufficient quantities and quality was a cornerstone in the development of any country. She argued that there was a link between political and social crises and the national food situation. Countries with the worst food situation had all undergone violent conflicts or natural disasters. Between 1970 and 1990, violent conflicts led to hunger and reduced food production and economic growth in 43 developing countries. “Once politically dominant groups take possession of land and food supplies and bar minorities access to these resources, violence becomes virtually inevitable,” Wieczorek-Zeul said. She said countries with democratic structures and a certain measure of Press freedom had largely succeeded in averting hunger and suffering.