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Friday 24 February 2006
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SOUTHERN AFRICA: HIV/AIDS eroding region's development, says UN report

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

©  PlusNews

Few people have access to AIDS drugs in South Africa

JOHANNESBURG, 7 September (PLUSNEWS) - HIV/AIDS has accounted for huge reversals in human development in Southern Africa, which could impact on the region meeting some of the UN's poverty-slashing Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), according to a new report.

The UN's '2005 Human Development Report' released on Wednesday noted that 12 of the 18 countries that have suffered development reversals between 1990 and 2003 were in sub-Saharan Africa, with Southern Africa "hit hardest".

South Africa has plunged by 35 places to 120 on the global Human Development Index (HDI), Zimbabwe by 23 and Botswana 21 places. Reversals were also noted for Lesotho, Swaziland and Zambia. The HDI, which ranks 167 countries, focuses on three measurable dimensions of human development - living a long and healthy life; being educated; and having a decent standard of living.

"Most of Southern Africa has experienced a decent growth rate, however the impact of HIV/AIDS has affected the life expectancy in the region," commented Claes Johansson, one of the authors of the UN Development Programme (UNDP) report.

He noted that South Africa had the resources to meet the MDGs - a set of development goals agreed by all countries to halve poverty by 2015 - if the impact of HIV/AIDS could be reversed.

However, a report recently released by the South Africa government indicated that the country was "well on course to meet" eight MDGs related to combating HIV/AIDS; poverty eradication; universal primary education; gender equality; reducing child mortality; improving maternal health; and environment sustainability.

The UNDP report acknowledged progress achieved in lowering income inequality as a result of South Africa's social security network, particularly the old-age pension system.

The cash grants have also resulted in tangible health gains, said the UN report. "Among black children under age 5 these transfers have led to an estimated 8 centimetre increase in height — equivalent to six months' growth".

But the South African National NGO Coalition (SANGOCO) was scathing over the government's progress in meeting at least two of the MDGs - combating HIV/AIDS and access to universal primary education.

South Africa has the highest number of people needing AIDS treatment now - 800,000. However, the government is providing free antiretroviral drugs to only around 61,000 people.

"This is too little considering the resources that South Africa, compared to other countries in the region, has at its disposal," said SANGOCO spokesman Hassen Lorgat. "In fact the MDGs are too minimum a programme for a country with resources like South Africa."

The epidemic is generating multiple human development reversals, extending beyond health into food security, education and other areas, noted the UNDP report.

"HIV-affected households are trapped in a financial pincer as health costs rise and incomes fall. Costs can amount to more than one-third of household income, crowding out spending in other areas," it said.

Beyond the household, HIV/AIDS is eroding the social and economic infrastructure, pushing already overstretched health systems "to the brink of collapse".

"Zambia now loses two-thirds of its trained teachers to HIV/AIDS, and in 2000 two in three agricultural extension workers in the country reported having lost a co-worker in the past year," noted the report.

Although the South African government has forecast that it will achieve the goal of full school enrolment well before 2015, Lorgat was critical of the authorities' performance.

"The point is South Africa does not even provide free primary school education," in a country where more than 30 percent of its population lives on less than US $2 a day, he commented.

Sub-Saharan Africa's education record is extremely poor. "On average, a child born in Mozambique today can anticipate four years of formal education. One born in France will receive 15 years at vastly higher levels of provision," noted UNDP.

Not only is school enrolment problematic in Africa, but so to is the quality of education: less than one-quarter of Zambian children emerge from primary school able to pass basic literacy tests, said the report.

More and better aid is key to helping lift sub-Saharan Africa out of its poverty and increased marginalisation in the world market.

"Fixing the international aid system is one the most urgent priorities facing government at the start of the 10-year countdown to meeting the MDGs in 2015," said Kevin Watkins, lead author of the UN report.


Armed forces to tackle impact of HIV/AIDS,  13/Feb/06
AIDS-prevention policies promote stigma - expert,  28/Oct/05
Farm workers neglected in HIV/AIDS prevention efforts,  11/Aug/05
HIV/AIDS, hunger a security threat, WFP warns,  1/Jul/05
New approach to aid required, says report,  20/Jun/05
· AIDS Media Center
· The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria
· International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS
· International HIV/AIDS Alliance

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