[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the
JOHANNESBURG, 5 May 2006 (IRIN) - According to a report released
this week by Unicef, the UN children's agency, HIV/AIDS is
contributing to continuing high rates of malnutrition among
children in Southern African countries.
Rather than making progress towards the Millennium Development
Goal (MDG) of reducing hunger by half, the study, 'Progress for
Children: a Report Card on Nutrition', found that the number of
underweight children in the region has actually increased over
the past 15 years.
Researchers attributed the slowing or reversing of positive
trends in combating child malnutrition in the early 1990s to the
impact of HIV/AIDS combined with drought-related food crises.
The proportion of underweight children in Lesotho and Zimbabwe,
for example, was higher in 2004 than in 1990, while in Malawi,
Mozambique and Zambia one out of every five children is now
Despite having the second highest adult HIV prevalence rate in
the world, Botswana is the only country in the region on track
for reaching the MDG target. Swaziland, with the highest HIV
prevalence, has also managed to reduce the proportion of
underweight children to 10 percent, the lowest in the region.
However, the report noted that these results could have been
skewed by increased child mortality in the two countries as a
result of malnutrition combined with HIV.
South Africa, the wealthiest country in the region, has seen its
proportion of underweight children rise by an average of 5.6
percent a year since 1994/95. The country also has the region's
lowest prevalence of exclusive breastfeeding, a highly beneficial
practice in the first six months of life.