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Moore returns from Zambia where millions suffer 'hunger without hope'

Image de l'UNICEF
© UNICEF UK/2002/Epstein
UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Roger Moore and his wife Kristina Moore sit among villagers in Zambia.

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LONDON, 13 November 2002 -- UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Roger Moore returned this week from his emergency mission to Zambia where 2.4 million people face one of the most complex, long term and rapidly-growing humanitarian crises the world has seen.

Accompanied by his wife Kristina, Moore visited households and communities worst affected by the drought, food shortages and HIV/AIDS in the south of the country, as well as UNICEF-funded street children projects in Lusaka, and nutrition units and water and sanitation projects in rural villages.

"[The situation in] Zambia is horrendous," he said on his return. "I've seen hunger before on my UNICEF travels, but never in this way. Never hunger without hope."

"It is AIDS which is exacerbating the situation in Zambia and across Southern Africa, making this emergency different from droughts and crises that have gone before," he continued. "In the past there was always an adult around to do the work - to plant seeds and plough the fields. Now, with one in four adults in the region HIV-positive many people are too sick to work, or have already died, and it is the children, some as young as eight or nine, who are left to cope alone. This is where UNICEF is focusing its work."

Unlike past droughts, this is a cumulative crisis with long-lasting impacts. In past droughts, which occur like clockwork every dozen years or so in Southern Africa, families and communities have survived through a variety of 'coping mechanisms' or temporary strategies for bad times. These include skipping meals, relying on extended family networks and personal reserves, traditional food gathering skills and humanitarian relief.

Image de l'UNICEF
© UNICEF UK/2002/Epstein
UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Roger Moore and his wife Kristina Moore sit among villagers in Zambia.

The current crisis is different. Instead of these coping strategies, people are desperately turning to 'survival strategies'. People are selling off productive assets such as land and livestock, and running up debts. This undercuts family and community resilience and means their potential for an eventual recovery is lessened. The more extreme 'survival strategies' include high-risk behaviours such as exchanging sex for food or cash, which serves only to further fuel the crisis by increasing HIV rates.

And with HIV/AIDS, hunger becomes a much greater peril. People living with HIV or AIDS deteriorate quickly if they are hungry or malnourished. Sickness and early death particularly affect the productive age-group, which means that fewer adults must support more people who have greater consumption needs. Farmers are shifting from labour-intensive, nutrition-rich crops to those that are less labour-intensive but which have less nutritional value. The burden of care has shifted to the weakest, the most marginalized and the most voiceless, especially women and children.

"I visited outlying villages where people have to walk miles to get food. They go out foraging for fruits, nuts and even roots," said Moore. "It was horrifying to see orphaned children [who] had not seen food for 36 hours. How can they concentrate on empty stomachs at school? All they feel is hunger."

Moore's mission took him to the remote communities where UNICEF seeks out child-headed households so that they can benefit from food distribution and other assistance. UNICEF is working with Governments and other partners to carry out and expand immunization, vitamin A delivery and de-worming activities for children in all six affected countries whose immune systems are weakened.

UNICEF is expanding HIV/AIDS awareness and education programmes across Southern Africa. In Zambia, Moore and the UNICEF delegation visited Simukumbo School in Southern Province. The newly formed 'AIDS club' showed Moore exactly what they thought of AIDS - by performing a song with a strong anti-AIDS message. Children of all ages are taught about the spread and prevention of AIDS at the club and they had put together a song and posters for the arrival of their guests. They passionately sang, to a captive and emotional audience:

"AIDS is a terrible pandemic!
We little children are suffering!
Our mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers are dying.
We hate it! We hate it! We hate it!
AIDS - you are a deadly disease, you killed my grandma and grandpa, now you are trying to kill my parents.
We hate it!
Oh yes we do!"



Related links

Find out more about Roger Moore and his work with UNICEF.