about the author
WFP Spokesperson for southern Africa
Richard Lee is southern African spokesperson for WFP. He has worked for WFP for the past seven years in southern Africa, Sudan, Indonesia, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka.
Vusie Maphalala knows very well that without regular nutritious food people receiving treatment for AIDS cannot benefit from the drugs. Two years ago his wife died for this very reason. Vusie, who also has AIDS, receives food from WFP and so is able to support his family.
MBABANE -- Dressed in his smartest suit, Vusie Maphalala waits patiently in the tiny health clinic in Mpolonjeni to collect his life-saving anti-retrovirals. He knows that they are the key to survival – to living long enough to help his three small children grow up.
But he also knows that drugs alone are not enough.
Two years ago, he watched his wife die. She was on treatment but was too weak and too malnourished to cope. So Vusie comes each month not just to pick up his drugs but also his monthly food ration.
Nutrition and food security are critical components of care and support for many people living with HIV particularly in sub-Saharan Africa.
WFP implements HIV/AIDS programmes in over 50 countries addressing treatment, care and support, and impact mitigation.
Health started improving
“I was malnourished and virtually bedridden when I started getting food from WFP,” said 44-year-old Vusie, who had been battling to take the drugs on an empty stomach. “But within two months, my health and strength started improving.”
Every month, Vusie receives more than 7 kg of nutritious corn-soya blend – known locally as ‘sidonono’ – under a joint project run by WFP and Swaziland’s Ministry of Health.
There is no doubt, in Vusie’s mind, how important this food has been. “This area has often been hit by drought and sometimes there was no food, which made it very difficult to keep on taking my medication,” said Vusie, who knows people who have been too hungry to continue their treatment. “But I don’t miss a single dose any more.”
Support to others
Now he is healthy enough to do manual work and to look after his sons – as well as providing much-needed support to other HIV positive people in his community who receive antiretroviral therapy (ART).
“As a volunteer, I help people who have recently enrolled in ART to plan their drug schedule,” said Vusie. “I also teach them the importance of nutrition and explain that they will only be able to stick to their schedule if they eat their corn-soya blend.”