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US govt gives Zim $4m to cushion HIV+ locals from food shortages

01/02/2017 00:00:00
by Staff Reporter
United States president Donald Trump

HIV positive Zimbabweans in areas severely affected by the El-Nino induced drought have received a lifeline after the United States (US) government donated $4 million in food aid.

At least 4 million people are already on the government food assistance programme, supported by multiple donors including the US government through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).

“These additional resources will complement US$127 million in emergency drought assistance which has been provided by the American people since the onset of the drought,” said USAID director Stephanie Funk.

USAID manages the funds while WFP and Unicef implements programmes.

“We stand with the people of Zimbabwe as the effects of this drought continue. USAID continues to address Zimbabwe’s immediate food needs while also building resilience against future droughts,” Funk added.

From a population of just over 13 million, the country has approximately 1, 2 million living with HIV.

With special dietary requirements to ensure effective treatment a must—most have been defaulting owing to food insecurity. At least two thirds of the population is considered poor.

The funding brings the total US support to alleviate the effects of drought to $131 million reaching-out to 2 million people since June 2015.

“Food security is especially critical for people living with HIV,” said WFP country representative Eddie Rowe in a statement this Tuesday.

“These resources will ensure that people living with HIV can access the food and nutrients they need to adhere to treatment and live healthy, productive lives.”

According to the embassy, the support to WFP will expand nutrition activities at health clinics across Harare, Bulawayo, and Mutasa District to benefit over 27,000 from 2,348 HIV and TB malnourished people.

On the other hand, Unicef will use its allocation to expand water, sanitation, and hygiene activities in 10 drought-affected districts with high HIV prevalence.

The government hopes the Unicef activities will save 350,000 beneficiaries from diarrheal diseases.

Unicef country representative Mohamed Ag Ayoya


“The rainy season has increased the risk of diarrheal diseases as many families, including people living with HIV, still do not have access to safe water and sanitation,” Unicef country representative Mohamed Ag Ayoya said.

He added, “This funding will enable us to save lives by increasing access to safe water, improving sanitary conditions, and providing much-needed information on hygiene and HIV.”

Lack of food is directly correlated with non-adherence to treatment which can lead to increased viral load, opportunistic infections, progression of the disease and a higher risk of transmitting HIV to others.

The aid comes at a time the country is focusing on reducing new infections estimated to be at 70 000 per year—key populations such as sex workers, youths, inmates, truck drivers and mining communities are the Health ministry’s primary target as HIV incidence is the highest.

PEPFAR contributed $135 million toward Zimbabwe’s national response to HIV and AIDS in 2016, bringing total U.S. funding for the HIV epidemic to over $650 million since 2006.

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