Eswatini, formerly called Swaziland, is a small, mountainous, landlocked country surrounded on all sides by South Africa and in close proximity to Mozambique. While Eswatini is classified as a lower-middle-income country, it is still plagued with severe poverty and high unemployment rates. One demonstration of this poverty can be seen by the approximately 900,000 individuals who were recorded to have no access to electricity in 2017. This is due in large part because Eswatini does not produce much of its own electricity. Rather, they get much of it, along with many other imports, from South Africa. In recent years, organizations like the World Bank have been working to improve Eswatini’s electricity supply, but there is still much work to be done.

Governmental Efforts

In Eswatini, The Eswatini Energy Regulatory Authority (ESERA) regulates the country’s electric supply industry, while The Eswatini Electricity Company (EEC) acts as the national utility. The Eswatini Electricity Company is state-owned and controls hydropower stations in Maguga, Ezulwini, Edwaleni and Maguduza. Despite this, Eswatini is a net importer of electricity due to the fact that its domestic electricity generation is insufficient to meet national demand. This can be attributed in large part to a lack of water storage, which has led to severe variations in annual domestic generation output over the years.  However, the Eswatini Government is looking to become more energy independent in the near future and has implemented the Rural Electrification Program (REP), which has increased the percent of Eswatini residents with access to proper electricity from 5 percent in 2003 to 75 percent in 2017.

The World Bank’s Role in Eswatini’s Electrical Supply

In conjunction with the REP, the World Bank has also aided in improving Eswatini’s electricity supply. One of the World Bank’s most notable projects in Eswatini is called the Network Reinforcement and Access Project.  It contains four parts. The first two components focus on strengthening the transmission and distribution network in Shiselweni and building upon the REP program to finance additional household connections. The third component provides analytical support by financing technical aid, and the 4th component is designed to improve Eswatini’s ability to respond to major economic or social emergencies. These efforts by the World Bank have proved to be extraordinarily helpful in Eswatini’s efforts to become a nation that produces its own energy.

Final Steps

Eswatini has taken major steps forward to address their issues with producing electricity.  However, the country is still struggling overall in this regard, and more work is necessary in order for the nation to become energy independent.  Funding from the World Bank, as well as from organizations like the UN, will be of great help to Eswatini as it seeks to improve access to electricity for its residents.

– Jade Thompson
Photo: Flickr

Girls' Education in Swaziland
In Swaziland, a relatively small, landlocked country in Southern Africa, a surprising trend has emerged: girls are receiving education at a higher rate than boys. According to the latest count on gross enrollment rate, the percentage of girls at every level of schooling has been higher than boys. However, due to the high rate of poverty, the HIV/AIDS epidemic and teenage pregnancies, the education of girls in Swaziland still has a lot of room for improvement.

Girls’ Education in Swaziland

Currently, although 97 percent of girls enroll at some point into primary school, only 37.7 percent of them continue into secondary education. Beyond that, only about 5.5 percent enroll in tertiary education.

One of the biggest obstacles in the way of girls’ education in Swaziland is poverty. Primary education in Swaziland currently operates under the Free Primary Education grant, launched in 2010, which stipulates that families send all children to public primary schools up to grade seven from the ages of six to 11. As of 2014, this program has enrolled about 80 percent of primary school-aged Swazi children. However, schools charge annual top-up fees, averaging at $76 per year, to cover running costs. With 58.9 percent of Swazis living below the national poverty line, defined as $2 or less per day, higher education becomes out of reach for many girls. This has resulted in many families withdrawing from educational programs in order to pay for the ever-growing costs of basic necessities such as food and medications.

Health Care, HIV/AIDS and Pregnancy

Next, the health care issues that have plagued Swazis for decades often disproportionately affect girls. The country experiences a significant HIV/AIDS gender gap which has been widening in recent years, with girls between the ages of 10 and 14 being almost twice as likely to have contracted HIV/AIDS than boys of the same age. HIV/AIDS inhibits children from attending schools as income initially used for school fees often becomes redirected toward medications.

Premature parental deaths caused by HIV/AIDS has also led to record-high numbers of orphans in the country. With few institutions in place to cope with the crisis, many of these minors, especially girls, become heads of families. As a result, they must forfeit their education in order to care for their siblings.

In addition, the country has a high rate of teenage pregnancies, many of them resulting from sexual abuse by close male relatives. One in three girls report having experienced sexual violence before the age of 18. With less than 30 percent of sex occurring with contraceptives, many of these sexual relationships result in teen pregnancies. Although there are no explicit laws in the country to exclude pregnant students from schools, local communities often ridicule and stigmatize these young mothers, which, often in combination with the needs of their children (schools rarely offer childcare or support), frequently results in them dropping out. The numbers indicate this because although 98 percent of Swazi children enroll in primary school at some point in their lives, only 27 percent enroll in secondary school.

UNICEF, Children’s HopeChest and mothers2mothers International

There is, however, much hope for the future for girls’ education in Swaziland. For example, UNICEF is currently actively collaborating with the Swazi government as well as the U.N. to decrease teenage pregnancy and to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV. The organization has dedicated human resources to Swaziland starting in 1968 and has since then engaged the Parliament to adopt better legislation regarding health and education issues and have supported strategies reducing the spread of HIV/AIDS through changes in community behaviors. Many NGOs are also invested in the issue, including Children’s HopeChest, which has been working to empower orphans in Swaziland by constructing housing and other facilities for them. Since 2004, the organization has impacted over 7,000 children. Furthermore, mothers2mothers International operates in Swaziland with the goal of preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV as well as providing support for individuals and families who have contracted the disease. Between its inaugural year of 2008 to its last data count in 2017, the program has enrolled 68,796 clients.

Conclusively, although the girls’ education in Swaziland still has many obstacles to overcome, including poverty, the HIV/AIDS epidemic and teenage pregnancy, there is much hope on the horizon. Today, over 95 percent of female Swazis are literate and that number should grow. With new educational and health programs being put in place by both the government and NGOs, teenage pregnancy and HIV rates are almost certain to decrease within the next decade.

– Linda Yan
Photo: Flickr

Swaziland Hunger
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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts about Living Conditions in SwazilandSwaziland has endeavored to increase employment and economic growth. Among these efforts, still more work needs to further these goals and priorities. One area that the country has made progress in is improving living conditions in Swaziland by reducing the number of people living below the poverty line. With continued effort, Swaziland can make positive steps in strengthening its healthcare system, increasing employment rates and economic growth and increasing the retention rate of girls in school. These top 5 facts about living conditions in Swaziland will show where they are succeeding and where they need more work.

Top 5 Facts about Living Conditions in Swaziland

  1. In Swaziland, unemployment rates, in general, have not changed much in the past few years, hovering around 26 percent. There are further discrepancies between unemployment rates for women. For example, in 2007 and 2010, the rates stayed level around 30 percent. For men, however, the rates between 2007 and 2010 were 24.0 percent and 22.7 percent. There is still more work to be done in increasing youth employment. In fact, Swaziland has one of the highest youth unemployment rates in Africa. The unemployment rate has remained higher than 50 percent since 2007. Specifically, working to reduce youth unemployment is a major part in helping reducing unemployment as a whole. Solutions to decrease youth unemployment are tertiary reforms and increasing vocational and on-the-job training. In addition, adding more growth to the private sector is key to helping to create high paying and productive jobs. Companies like Orange and OpenClassrooms are working to provide digital education to Africa’s youth to help young people find jobs in the tech markets.
  2. There has been some progress made in the living conditions in Swaziland by reducing the number of people living below the poverty line. According to the Swaziland Household Income and Expenditure Survey, the percentage of people living below the poverty line was 69 percent in 2001. However, the percentage had dropped by more than half to 30 percent in 2015. These numbers represent, on average, 20 percent for those living in urban areas, but for those living in rural areas, it was as high as 37 percent. Reasons for such high poverty rates were the decrease in incomes, the stagnation of private consumption and the decrease in the GDP.
  3. As a whole, economic growth has declined in Swaziland. Real GDP growth decreased from 1.3 percent in 2016 to 1 percent in 2017. Economic growth was projected to be at 1.5 percent in 2018. Factors that have contributed to the decline in economic growth are low demand from pivotal export market destinations, especially from South Africa and Eurozone. In addition, the sector also experienced a decline in economic growth and a loss of eligibility in status to trade under the African Growth and Opportunity Act Arrangement. Swaziland’s average GDP annual growth rate had been its highest in 1990 at 21 percent, but it dropped significantly down to .7 percent in 2016. Fortunately, the GDP annual growth rate had risen up to 2.3 percent in 2017.
  4. The healthcare system consists of formal and informal sectors. Health practitioners and general service providers make up the informal sector while industry, private and public health services as well as nongovernmental organizations make up the formal sector. Swaziland puts around 3.8 percent of its GDP towards healthcare, the government providing 65 percent of the money, which is about 2 percent of its GDP. The federal budget was increased from 7 percent in 1998 to 9 percent in 2009.
  5. There still is more work to be done in closing the gender gap in education. Swaziland’s educational levels are primary education, secondary education, vocational education and tertiary education. Although there is not a great disparity between boy and girls attending primary, dropout rates do tend to rise by year 5 of secondary school. More work needs to be done in increasing the retention rates for both girls and boys in school, although more work is needed for female retention. While there are not as many obstacles for girls starting school, there are numerous obstacles that hinder girls from staying in school. Between the ages of 15 and 19, 50 percent of girls will not have completed secondary school, compared to 39 percent of boys. Some of the obstacles are poverty, the HIV/AIDS pandemic and gender insensitivity. Furthermore, more than two-thirds of families live in poverty, and many find difficulties in paying for school fees and other costs.

These 5 facts about living conditions in Swaziland show that, while there is more work to be done in areas of employment, economic, growth and education, there has been notable progress in helping to improve the living conditions of the people. One area that has seen progress is the reduction of the number of those living below the poverty line. With more effort, Swaziland can see positive developments in helping the lives of all people.

Daniel McAndrew-Greiner

Photo: Flickr

infrastructure in SwazilandSwaziland is a small, middle-income country in southern Africa that was once heavily influenced by British and Dutch rule in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Since it was granted its freedom in 1968, the Swazi government has worked hard to create a stable and thriving community for its inhabitants, one of its main focuses being infrastructure in Swaziland.

Swaziland has a GDP of approximately $3.73 billion and a population of 1.1 million. It is estimated that 63 percent of the Swazi population lives under the poverty line and lives in areas that lack adequate access to basic needs, such as reliable roads and a constant food source. To address these issues surrounding citizen well-being, the Board of Directors of the African Development Bank Group (AfDB) drafted a Country Strategy Paper (CSP) for 2014 to 2018 that focuses on promoting economic growth and improved quality of life in Swaziland.

This document, while tenacious, hopes to address the country’s status as a lower-income country with moderate to high poverty and inequality rates. The board drafted two main goals in its legislature:

  1. Supporting Infrastructure Development for Sustainable and Inclusive Growth
  2. Strengthening Governance and Institutional Capacity

Within the first goal of the legislature, the board’s plan was to address infrastructure in Swaziland by improving the country’s amenities to match those of surrounding countries. This was meant to aid the integration of disadvantaged groups of society by giving them better access to opportunities coming from improved infrastructure. Since the CSP was drafted in 2014, there have already been progressive steps taken in addressing these issues.

First, in 2014, the Board of Executive Directors of the AfDB approved a $47 million loan to improve the quality of the Manzini-Mbadlane highway, a highly trafficked roadway. This job not only provided 250,000 Swazis with economic benefits regarding reduced travel cost and time, but it also provided a more stable route to and from South Africa, a popular tourist destination and stable trading partner.

Additionally, in May 2016, Swaziland received a $63 million loan in order to finance the second phase of the Lower Usuthu Smallholder Irrigation Project in the southeastern part of the nation. This loan provided an opportunity for small, poorer farmers to use the natural resources provided by the Lower Usuthu River Basin to get involved with the commercial agriculture sub-sector, which is an excellent opportunity for both the underserved citizens of Swaziland as well as the country’s overall economy.

However, contrary to the active work being done to improve infrastructure in Swaziland, the country has not seen much development in terms of official action being taken to strengthen governance and institutional capacity. But, in recent years, the country’s lawmakers have drafted plans that focus on bettering healthcare and the decentralization of hospitals in Swaziland.

The Swaziland Ministry of Health National Health Sector Strategic Plan, which was drafted for 2014 to 2018, has outlined some key procedures surrounding the improvement of responsiveness, sustainability and creating a distinctive organizational culture within Swaziland’s healthcare sector. These plans will be funded by the World Bank and the European Union, and are being led by the Health Partners Southern Africa, which will be working with the Health Information Systems Program, the Institute for Health Measurement as well as the Strategic Development Consultants. The hope is that the goals stated in these drafts will come into effect in the next few years.

While there is still a long way to go in terms of improving infrastructure in Swaziland, the country’s lawmakers are working with their economic resources to find ways to better the lives of their country’s inhabitants. With loans and foreign support, the hope is that Swaziland will acquire the means to reach its goal of becoming a first world country.

– Alexandra Dennis

Photo: Flickr

sustainable agriculture in swazilandIn June 2017, the city of Siphofaneni in Swaziland opened the Siphofaneni Bridge, a massive structure crossing the Usutu River, as a new major transportation route for the burgeoning sugar industry. By reducing transportation costs, this bridge created more job opportunities in the sugar industry, which accounts for the majority of Swaziland’s exports. The agriculture industry in Swaziland employs about 70 percent of the population, but because of climate change and drought, the economy has been at a low point. More than a third of Swazi people are living with malnourishment.

In response to this problem, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the European Union (EU) started working to broaden sustainable agriculture in Swaziland. Because the majority of the Swazi people rely on subsistence farming for their food, the FAO and the EU banded together to introduce small agricultural practices that will build up over time and created the Swaziland Agricultural Development Project.

Communities throughout Swaziland have had communal and individual gardens constructed for growing food, most of which went directly to the households who planted them. Similar communal fishing areas and poultry farms were also constructed, and communities were educated on how to successfully grow food.

The high burden of HIV and AIDS in the country also prompted the FAO to address food insecurity among people living with chronic illnesses and improve access to community resources.

On the larger scale, local farmers were educated on conservation farming in order to prolong the life of crops and the land. In order to make up for the drought throughout the country, the SADP also involved creating better access to water for farming by constructing and restoring dams and boreholes.

Swaziland is in a rough spot, with over a third of the population struggling with HIV and AIDS as well as chronic malnourishment. However, these practices and the further development of sustainable agriculture in Swaziland not only have the potential to lower starvation rates, but also to take some of the financial burden off the shoulders of people struggling to provide for their families.

– Anna Sheps

Photo: Flickr

Women's Empowerment in SwazilandThough Swaziland has experienced quick and promising economic growth in the past decade, women remain left out of economic participation. Women make up 52 percent of the population in Swaziland, yet in 2008 they consisted of only 48.6 percent of the wage employment in non-agricultural sectors. In an effort to improve women’s empowerment in Swaziland, the African Health Observatory, which works with the World Health Organization (WHO), aimed to increase this percentage to 52 percent by 2015.

Women in Swaziland are not only left out of the country’s economic activities but also the country’s government. From 2008-2013, women made up 28 percent of the ministers in the national parliament, which increased from 20 percent during the 2003-2008 government. The Constitution sets the requirement at 30 percent, though many international bodies, including the African Union and the Southern African Development Community, have set their goal at 52 percent.

Formal employment opportunities for women in Swaziland are also scarce. It has a Gender Inequality Index (GII) of 0.557, which has ranked Swaziland 150th out of 188 countries.

Health and Education

Due to the lack of formal employment opportunities, women often resort to commercial or transactional sex as a way of making ends meet. Their work puts them at a higher risk of contracting a sexually transmitted disease. Compared to the 20 percent of men in Swaziland that have HIV, 31 percent of women from the ages of 15 to 49 have HIV.

Another factor that contributes to women having to turn to sex work is their lack of education. In Swaziland, many girls must drop out of school in order to work at home and provide support for their families.

In 2007, the ratio of girls to boys in secondary education was 1.01. However, in that same year, there were over five thousand more girls of secondary school age than there were boys of this age. This statistic demonstrates that there is still a significant gap between the number of girls that attend school versus the number of boys that attend school in Swaziland.

Progress in Gender Equality

Despite the work that is still to be done for women’s empowerment in Swaziland, considerable progress has been made. The Swaziland Rural Women’s Assembly (SRWA), whose goal is to raise the voices of rural women and to further progress in gender equality, has grown by over four thousand members since 2012. It has also mobilized over 20,000 women to more actively fight for change.

In 2016, the Swaziland Progressive Women’s Charter launched on International Women’s Day, March 8. Over 350 women took part in promoting the Charter, which is meant to reflect the voices of rural women. In the Charter, the women say that they recognize how necessary it is for them to unite and build a strong voice of advocacy.

Through the work of these organizations, considerable progress can be made to improving women’s empowerment in Swaziland.

– Haley Rogers

Photo: Flickr

Humanitarian Aid to SwazilandSwaziland currently suffer from food insecurity, an inaccessibility to hygienic water and from an abundance of orphans. Many organizations are working with the government to bring the success of humanitarian aid to Swaziland.

Agriculture

There is a high dependence on agricultural farming, with 77 percent of Swazis relying on it, to bring food and income to their families. As a response to droughts, among other things, there has been a decline in agricultural performance, leading to a reduction in income and a spike in the price of food. The Annual Vulnerability Analysis Assessment of 2017 recorded around 159,000 Swazis experiencing food insecurity.

The World Food Programme (WFP) responded by initiating the Food by Prescription project, providing 11,000 malnourished people with a monthly balanced diet. The project also includes monthly household rations for families. WFP is also addressing long-term nutrition solutions by working with the Swaziland government to monitor food insecurity, integrate nutrition awareness and include underrepresented minorities into the analysis.

Since 2013, the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement also contributes to the success of humanitarian aid to Swaziland. The movement implements a number of programs like the Integrated Management of Acute Malnutrition which aims to improve nutrition on a national level.

The Government of Swaziland has taken the issue into their own hands by creating the Swaziland National Nutrition Council (SNNC) and teaming up with the Food Security and Nutrition Forum, Child Health and Nutrition Forum, Micronutrient Alliance and the Water and Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Forum.

Water

While drought hinders agriculture, it also limits the availability of clean drinking water. UNICEF aided with Swaziland’s implementation of the WASH in Schools (WinS) program, which is a piece of the Child Friendly School framework that aims to achieve quality education throughout Swaziland.

Through hygiene training and through the improvement of hygienic resources, 95 percent of the 757 targeted schools gained access to sanitation facilities by 2010. Although there is more room for improvement, 64 percent of these schools progressed in the overall access to quality water.

Children

Swaziland has a significant number of orphans, due to a high rate of parental deaths and other families’ inability to take in more mouths to feed. A 2010 study recorded around 10-15 percent of Swazi head of households being children, rather than parents. Swaziland has created social service centers called Kagogo centers to aid children in need, in response to the limited number of orphanages.

WFP stepped in, providing 52,000 orphans with monthly meals through other daycare type centers within neighborhoods. The project also implements access to basic education, psychosocial support and health services. Additionally, Swaziland made all primary schools free for students in 2011, which led to orphans gaining access to education, school meals and quality water and sanitation.

Through WASH and nutritional means, one can witness the success of humanitarian aid to Swaziland.

Brianna White

Photo: Flickr

SwazilandSwaziland is a small, landlocked country in southern Africa with a population of approximately 1.1 million. An estimated 63 percent of the population lives below the national poverty line, and 350,000 people are food insecure and in need of food aid. Swaziland also has one of the highest incidence rates of HIV/AIDS in the world, with nearly 26 percent of people aged 15 to 49 living with the disease. The average life expectancy is only 49 years so, as a result, 45 percent of children are left orphaned or vulnerable at a young age. Here are just some of the primary ways in which humanitarian organizations and the Swazi government are working to help people living in poverty in Swaziland.

Helping Vulnerable Children Access Necessary Resources

Due to the high prevalence of HIV/AIDS which predominantly affects the country’s younger population, many children have lost one or both of their parents. Parents of children who are HIV-positive often cannot afford retroviral therapy. Many HIV-positive children are cut off from basic health services and education. One in 10 children in Swaziland is severely malnourished. There is also a low school enrollment rate of 60.1 percent, with one in five primary-school-aged children not enrolled in primary school.

Organizations such as SOS Children’s Villages and the World Food Programme are currently working on providing orphaned and vulnerable children with access to education and healthcare services. SOS Children’s Villages provides daycare and medical assistance in three different locations in Swaziland. The World Food Programme also provides nutritious meals to children at community-led daycare centers throughout the country. The project aims to provide vulnerable children with both nutrition and access to social services such as early childhood education, psychosocial support and basic healthcare services.

Providing Treatment for HIV/AIDS and TB

With 26 percent of people aged 15 to 49 living with HIV, the prevalence of HIV/AIDS has also greatly depleted Swaziland’s labor force. Tuberculosis (TB) is also one of the leading causes of death in the country, although 80 percent of TB patients are also infected with HIV. In order to combat the spread of these diseases, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Swazi Ministry of Health work together to broaden the scope of HIV testing and antiretroviral treatment in Swaziland. Since 2012, thousands have been provided with access to antiretroviral treatment, HIV testing and counselling services. In addition to helping those in need, combating HIV will also help ease the strain HIV puts on the Swazi economy.

Providing Communities with Sustainable Sources of Clean Water

Approximately 330,000 people in Swaziland do not have access to a source of clean water, and half a million people do not have access to adequate sanitation. Every year, over 200 children under the age of five die due to diarrhoeal diseases caused by poor water and sanitation conditions in Swaziland. The high incidence of HIV/AIDS only makes the need for safe water and hygiene even greater.

This is why organizations such as WaterAid and the Thirst Project have made it their goal to provide a source of clean water to all those in Swaziland who do not currently have one. WaterAid works with local communities to introduce affordable technologies that can be easily maintained by the communities themselves. It also lobbies the Swazi government to ensure water and hygiene are prioritized and budgeted for.

The Thirst Project also works to bring clean water sources to communities and hopes to have provided all Swazi communities in need with safe water by 2022. “They build something sustainable, that’s not going to dry up even though there are tremendous droughts right now in Swaziland,” states Paola Pozzaglia Nilsen, an adviser for a local chapter of the Thirst Project in New York. Nilsen added that clean water is an integral part of how to help people in Swaziland as it helps communities to become self-sufficient, healthier, and safer.

By investing in the nutrition and education of children, the treatment of diseases like HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis and the construction of clean water sources, progress toward eradicating poverty in Swaziland can begin to happen.

Amanda Quinn
Photo: Flickr

HIV in SwazilandSub-Saharan Africa has become notorious for its high numbers of HIV-positive individuals. However, some countries may finally see the end to these epidemics.

Data from the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief show that the HIV epidemic is coming under control across all age groups in Swaziland, the country with the highest HIV prevalence in the world. The latest Swaziland HIV Incidence Measurement Survey has found that new HIV infections have nearly halved among adults.

The prevalence of HIV in Swaziland has had a significant impact on the country. 2015 estimates show that life expectancy in the country is 57 years for men and 61 years for women. Despite the longer lifespan, women are disproportionately affected by HIV, with most women contracting the virus between the ages of 15 and 24. This sharp increase has been attributed to the high level of intergenerational sex that occurs between older men and young, sexually inexperienced women.

Heterosexual sex is the main form of transmission of HIV in Swaziland, accounting for 94 percent of new infections. Low and inconsistent condom use, intergenerational sex, transactional sex, gender inequalities, gender-based violence, multiple and concurrent sexual relationships and a low uptake of male circumcision are all key drivers of Swaziland’s HIV epidemic.

HIV has played a major role in limiting Swaziland’s ability to support its dwindling economy. The epidemic consistently draws resources from other priority areas, placing the health system under considerable stress, and directly affecting capital accumulation and productivity. The impact of HIV has led to the disruption and destabilization of families and communal support systems. Destabilized families result in a dramatic increase in the number of vulnerable children and child-headed households that must use any limited assets to cover medical and burial costs.

With many world organizations working together to stop and reduce the spread of Swaziland’s HIV epidemic, more preventative options are available. Collaboration with the Swazi National Reference Laboratory and the Center for Disease Control resulted in drastically reduced turnaround time for key HIV diagnostics. Care and treatment for HIV has expanded nationwide to include promoting good hygiene, nutritional practices, safe drinking water, abstinence and partner reduction. Antiretroviral treatment reached over 85 percent of those eligible for treatment, and high-quality HIV testing and counseling services have served record numbers of people, especially the most at-risk populations.

The downturn of Swaziland’s HIV epidemic offers hope to other Sub-Saharan African countries that are fighting similar battles. Collaborating with world leaders and local governments has proven to be very productive in expanding the impact and sustainability of all health investments. From here, Swaziland finally has a true chance at becoming a stronger member of the global community.

Allie Knofczynski

Photo: Flickr