Southern Africa is undergoing a food crisis of surprising scale and novelty. The familiar culprits of drought and mismanagement of national strategies are implicated. However, this crisis is distinct from conventional drought-induced food shortages with respect to those vulnerable to starvation, and the course of impoverishment and recovery. We propose that these new aspects to the food crisis can be attributed largely to the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the region. We present evidence that we are facing a new variant famine. We have used frameworks drawn from famine theory to examine the implications. HIV/AIDS has created a new category of highly vulnerable households — namely, those with ill adults or those whose adults have died. The general burden of care in both AIDS-affected and non-AIDS-affected households has reduced the viability of farming livelihoods. The sensitivity of rural communities to external shocks such as drought has increased, and their resilience has declined. The prospects for a sharp decline into severe famine are increased, and possibilities for recovery reduced.
The Lancet (2003) Volume 362, Issue 9391, pp. 1234-1237 [doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(03)14548-5]