Swaziland is a small, landlocked Southern African country that borders South Africa and Mozambique. The country is only 120 miles long and 81 miles wide and has a population of less than 1.5 million, making it one of the smallest countries in Africa in these regards. The Swazi population faces some major health issues, the most severe among them being HIV and tuberculosis. The biggest concern for the country is, however, the widespread hunger. Keep reading to learn the top 10 facts about hunger in Swaziland.
Top 10 Facts About Hunger in Swaziland
- Swaziland has a score of 22.5 out of 50 on the Global Hunger Index (GHI), indicating that the level of hunger in the country is serious. The country ranks 76th out of 119 qualifying countries. This indicator is calculated using factors such as child undernutrition, inadequate food supply and child mortality. Although hunger is still a huge problem in Swaziland, the GHI score is trending generally downwards, from 28.9 in 2000 to 22.5 currently.
- Around 25.5 percent of Swazi children under the age of 5 show signs of growth stunting or being irreversibly short for their age. In real numbers, this is around 43,000 children. This number is trending downwards and has dropped for 11.1 percent from 36.6 percent in 2000. Stunting is an indicator of child undernutrition due to the particular vulnerability of children to dietary deficiencies.
- Child undernutrition has significant economic ramifications for Swaziland. According to the World Food Programme (WFP), approximately $92 million or 3.1 percent of the country’s GDP was lost in 2009 as a direct result of child undernutrition. These costs come from clinical episodes, grade repetition and school dropouts (more common in stunted children) and loss of working hours due to undernutrition.
- Forty percent of adults in Swaziland are considered to have stunted growth due to undernutrition as children. This presents a significant challenge for these individuals as most job opportunities require manual labor. The WFP estimates losses of $14.8 million in 2009 due to the impaired physical capacity of this demographic.
- According to national surveys, the country has reduced the population living under the poverty line from 69 to 63 percent. However, there has been no improvement in the last decade regarding the high levels of income inequality. It is estimated that around 40.6 percent of Swazi people live under $1.25 per day.
- Life expectancy in Swaziland is trending upwards. Between 2000 and 2002, life expectancy at birth stood at 46.5 years but rose to 48.7 years from 2009 to 2016. This is still far below the World Health Organization’s estimated global average of 72 years in 2016.
- The country has slashed the rate of new HIV infections by 44 percent through a number of initiatives including greater access to anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs). A 2017 Washington D.C.-funded survey found that 73.1 percent of the infected population has fully suppressed the virus and the HIV incidence had dropped to 1.4 percent. Proper nutrition also has an impact on the ability of those infected to maintain a healthy weight and absorb HIV medication.
- Swaziland consistently fails to produce enough maize, its staple crop, to fulfill its population’s needs. Around 140,000 metric tonnes (MT) of the crop would be needed to satisfy the population’s requirement, but only 84,344 MT was produced in 2016/2017 and 33,460 MT in 2015/2016.
- Drought is a huge factor when it comes to agricultural production. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the majority of Swazi people live in rural areas, and over 70 percent or more than a million people rely on subsistence farming.
- Swaziland’s under-5 mortality rate (per 1,000) is on the decline. In 2016, this metric stood at 70.4 compared to 120 a decade prior.
These top 10 facts about hunger in Swaziland presented in this article highlight the issues that the country still faces in its development and the progress that has been made to combat food insecurity, especially in children.
– Chelsey Crowne