Christian relief and development agency World Vision has warned that there will be no long-term fix to the impending food crisis in southern Africa unless the international community unites to combat its root causes.
"As we mark World AIDS Day, the international community must focus its attention on the looming food crisis in southern Africa, whilst also addressing its long-term causes – including the AIDS pandemic currently devastating countries such as Malawi and Zambia," said World Vision policy adviser Stephen Doughty.
The appeal from World Vision comes as world leaders meet in New York this week to discuss the impact of soaring food and fuel prices on developing countries.
World Vision Emergency Officer Nick Wasunna was recently in Zimbabwe where he encountered the effect of high AIDS infection rates on the food crisis.
"I saw queues of people at food distribution centers," he said, in a report on the agency's website. "After talking to them you discover they are all affected in some way by HIV."
"The impact of HIV/AIDS across the region cannot be underestimated," he continued.
"When a family cannot work or grow food because carers are sick or dying from AIDS, the problems facing them and their community are severely compounded. Children, especially girls, drop out of school as they are required to look after dying family members."
The long-term consequences, he said, would be a persistently "uneducated, unskilled and poverty-stricken generation" and less development.
World Vision launched an emergency appeal on Wednesday to assist the 12 to 14 million people it says are facing hunger across southern Africa, most seriously in Malawi and Zimbabwe.