An estimated 2.6 million people in Southern Africa face a food crisis due to erratic weather, the AIDS epidemic and economic policy mistakes, according to news reports. Another 2.4 million are expected to be at risk in the months ahead.
The worst hit nation is Malawi, where 70 percent of the population struggles to secure food and 800,000 are infected with HIV.
“Aid workers estimate that many thousands of children and adults have already died of hunger-related causes in Malawi,” MSNBCcom reported.
Malawi, one of the world’s poorest nations, saw its life expectancy rate drop from 43 years of age in 1996 to 39 years of age in 2000, according to allAfrica.com. Over 65 percent of its people are considered poor. They live on 13 cents per day based upon a 1998 survey.
Malawi’s hunger crisis results from harsh weather conditions, as well as man-made causes, one of which is its international debt.
The most current figures showed that in 1998 Malawi paid 39 cents to service international debt for every $1 received in aid grants.
Many poor nations carry heavy international debts, which limit the amount of funding for health care, education and agricultural development.
Judith Lewis, regional director for the World Food Programme, said, “Malawi sold grain reserves to pay interest on money borrowed.”
In addition to Malawi, the WFP is delivering emergency food to Zimbabwe and Zambia.
The Guardian reported that Mozambique, Swaziland and Lesotho declared a state of famine last week.