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South Africa

UN Special Envoy cites key humanitarian issues on final mission to southern Africa

© UNICEF video
Good nutrition, education and care are critical for the 3.3 million orphans in the southern African region.

By Sarah Crowe

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, 13 December 2006 – The future of southern Africa depends on how governments cope with the orphan crisis and the effects of HIV/AIDS in the region, said the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Humanitarian Needs in southern Africa, James Morris.

On his eighth and final mission to the region as UN Special Envoy, Mr. Morris held a press conference in Johannesburg to highlight the pressing humanitarian situation that remains.

Good nutrition, education and care are critical for the 3.3 million orphans in the region, he said. In Zimbabwe, for example, one in four children is orphaned – the highest rate in the world.

Facing complex issues

“Zimbabwe having to bear the burden of taking care of another 1.6 million children, in a country that has less than 12 million population,” said Mr. Morris, “is just an overwhelming responsibility. So how does the humanitarian community move from this immediate crisis of saving lives – by and large because of food security – to working as a team for these longer strategic issues?

“Good progress has been made,” he continued, “but the issues are still overwhelmingly serious and complicated and sad.”

© UNICEF video
On his eighth and final mission to southern Africa as UN Special Envoy, James Morris held a press conference in Johannesburg to highlight the pressing humanitarian concerns that remain in the region.

In the course of his mission, Mr. Morris met with President Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe, as well as various ministers, UN agencies, non-governmental organizations and donors in Zambia and Malawi. During his four-year tenure as UN Special Envoy, Mr. Morris represented the World Food Programme (WFP), UNICEF, UNAIDS, the Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Health Organization.

Access to HIV/AIDS treatment

After years of severe drought in southern Africa, better weather has meant better harvests and fewer people in need of emergency food aid – down from 14 million in 2002 to 4 million this year.

However, HIV/AIDS remains an urgent concern in the region, which has 9 of the world’s 10 highest national HIV prevalence rates.

Mr. Morris praised efforts by humanitarian agencies and governments to get life-saving anti-retroviral treatment to more people living with HIV and AIDS. But he said much more has to be done to increase access for children who need treatment.

Investment in girls and women

Echoing the findings of the recently launched UNICEF report on the benefits of gender equality, The State of the World’s Children 2007, Mr. Morris said that where progress had been made, it was mostly due to girls’ education and better support for and investment in women.

"We know that if women are managing distribution of food in a community, or if food goes directly to women, it will be used properly," said the UN Special Envoy, who is also the outgoing WFP Executive Director.

Southern Africa has pulled back from the brink of a major humanitarian disaster. The future, said Mr. Morris, depends on longer-term strategies – in particular, halting the spread of HIV and AIDS, which has eroded much of the progress made in the region.




13 December 2006:
UNICEF correspondent Sarah Crowe reports on outgoing UN Special Envoy James Morris’s final mission to southern Africa.
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