Causes of Poverty in Swaziland
As 63 percent of Swazis continue to live below the national poverty line, it is clear that there is an urgent call for change. While the causes of poverty in Swaziland are many, gender inequality serves as one of the primary factors — an issue that needs to be addressed in order to aid in poverty reduction efforts throughout the nation.

Among the many causes of poverty in Swaziland, a lack of effective health care is one of the largest concerns. The nation holds the highest rate of HIV prevalence in the world, with 28.8 percent of the adult population living with this life-threatening disease.

As the key driving factors of Swaziland’s HIV epidemic include low and inconsistent condom use, transactional sex, gender inequalities and gender based violence, it is clear that the cycle of poverty supported by this disease disproportionately affects women.

With 120,000 of the 220,000 people living with HIV in Swaziland being women, studies reveal that 31 percent of all women within the country live with HIV, while only 20 percent of men are affected.

Many driving factors contribute to women’s increased risk of contracting HIV, including a lack of access to proper reproductive education and health care. While 14 percent of women between the ages of 15 and 24 have been involved in intergenerational sex with older men, their adolescent age and lack of reproductive education cause them to be at more of a risk to the spread of the disease, often without their knowledge.

According to AVERT, one in three women in Swaziland also report experiencing some form of sexual abuse by the time they were 18. These and other significant gender disparities have ranked Swaziland 137 out of 159 countries in the Gender Inequality Index.

The inequalities women face in Swaziland not only leave them in a more vulnerable position to disease but also serve as the major causes of poverty in Swaziland. As women are the primary caretakers and providers for children worldwide, those disadvantages that women face create a ripple effect of a detriment for the next generation as well.

For every 100,000 live births in Swaziland, 389 women die from pregnancy-related causes, leaving 24 percent of children aged zero to 17 as orphans and 45 percent as either orphans or vulnerable.

These high maternal mortality rates reveal the reality that women’s disproportionate access to health care in Swaziland serves as one of the direct causes of poverty in Swaziland, as it not only affects the mother but also leaves almost half of Swaziland’s adolescent population at an increased risk for poverty.

Through analyzing the direct effects of gender inequality on the next generation’s vulnerability to the cycle of poverty, it is clear that a greater focus needs to be placed on addressing gender disparities within the nation — especially those of female’s access to education and reproductive health care — so as to encourage a significant drop in the poverty rates in Swaziland.

Kendra Richardson

Photo: Flickr

Human Rights in SwazilandSwaziland is a landlocked country located in Southern Africa, and has been ruled by the absolute monarch, King Mswati III, since 1986. The current state of human rights in Swaziland is lamentable. Although the Constitution of the Kingdom of Swaziland Act – which guarantees basic human rights – took effect in 2005, numerous incidents of human rights violations have been reported, including repression of political dissent and banning of political parties.

In 2016, specific cases of infringement of human rights in Swaziland included restrictions on freedom of assembly. The police took advantage of the Urban Act, which requires protesters to report any plans of a public protest two weeks prior to the event, and cracked down on it by attacking protesters. For example, in February the Swazi police arrested two leaders of the Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT), Mcolisi Ngcamphalala and Mbongwa Dlamini, who were participating in protests.

On September 22, 2016, the Human Rights Watch released a statement that criticized the Swazi government for not implementing the recommendations it accepted during its last Universal Periodic Review (URP) in 2011. These recommendations – which were aimed at ensuring progress in human rights reform in the country – comprised: elimination of all restrictions on fundamental civil and political rights, allowing political freedom through fair and transparent democratic elections and decriminalization of same-sex relations. Despite the apparent absence of democracy in Swaziland, the king has recently carried out a deceptive campaign to convince his citizens that their country is a democratic kingdom.

The future of human rights in Swaziland is unclear. However, the recent performance by the country’s High Court is notable. In September 2016, the court declared the Suppression of Terrorism Act, which had been used by the government to ban opposition to King Mswati’s rule, as unconstitutional. If similar political decisions are made in the future, it would mean more progress for human rights in Swaziland.

Minh Joo Yi

Photo: Google

The Swaziland Poverty RateDespite its classification as a lower-middle-income nation, 63 percent of the Kingdom of Swaziland’s population still lives below the poverty line. The Swaziland poverty rate is attributed to multiple factors. These factors include stalled economic growth, severe drought, unequal distribution of wealth, high unemployment and a high rate of HIV/AIDS.

According to the African Economic Outlook, economic growth in Swaziland dropped to -0.6 percent in 2016 due to a severe drought during the 2015-16 agricultural season that caused significant declines in the country’s agricultural sector. As nearly 77 percent of Swazis rely on subsistence farming for their livelihoods, Swaziland was one of the southern African nations hit hardest by the drought.

The economic growth rate is projected to rise to 1.4 percent in 2017 as improving weather conditions also improve agricultural production. It will most likely take until 2018, though, to regain and potentially surpass 2015’s growth rate of 1.7 percent.

In 2015, Swaziland was ranked 150 out of 188 countries in the Human Development Index (HDI). The HDI which ranks countries based on life expectancy, education and per capita income indicators. Between 2011 and 2015, the country’s HDI value did not change. Researchers attribute this lack of progress to unmet Millennium Development Goals in areas such as poverty and health care.

In an effort to combat the high Swaziland poverty rate, the Swazi government has undertaken various initiatives aimed at promoting indigenous Swazi entrepreneurship and decreasing youth unemployment rates. According to the 2013-14 Integrated Labour Force Survey, people between the ages of 22 and 35 owned only 33 percent of the country’s small businesses.

The Swazi government is currently working on including more young people in the country’s growing small business sector by including entrepreneurship training in schools and supporting programs that give young people hands-on experience in a small business work environment. Additionally, the nation is planning to revitalize the Youth Enterprise Revolving Fund Initiative.

There are also several organizations working on the ground in Swaziland to help those living in poverty. In 2017, the World Food Programme (WFP) has collaborated with the Swazi government to improve the food consumption of households affected by the drought by providing approximately 250,000 people with food distributions and cash transfers through the use of mobile money.

The organization is also working to combat the malnutrition caused by the drought and the high poverty rate. It provides 15,000 people per month with take-home food rations meant specifically to improve their nutritional status. This initiative mainly targets those undergoing treatment for HIV or tuberculosis. Both of these diseases have high incidence rates in Swaziland.

The Thirst Project is another organization that is working to alleviate the burdens that poverty places on 63 percent of Swazis. Its goal is to end the global water crisis by providing sustainable sources of clean water to communities in developing countries.

It is the belief of Alicia Villafana, though, a recipient of the Thirst Project’s Power of Youth Award for her fundraising efforts, that providing communities with clean water will ultimately help downsize the Swaziland poverty rate.

“Now they can grow gardens and vegetables that provide nutrients. Now HIV patients can take their medication without worrying about catching a disease from the water that might kill them,” states Villafana. “Kids don’t have to spend time going to fetch water. Now they can go to school and get an education.”

With the efforts of the Swazi government, supplemented by aid from humanitarian organizations, the WFP believes that those affected by the Swaziland poverty rate may soon lead healthier, more secure lives.

Amanda Lauren Quinn

Photo: Flickr

HIV in SwazilandBy scaling up testing and treatment efforts in the past years, Swaziland has achieved big successes in the fight against the HIV epidemic. As a new study shows, more than 73 percent of adults living with HIV now have viral load suppression (VLS) and the rate of new infections with HIV in Swaziland has dropped by 44 percent since 2011.

With more than 27 percent of the adult population infected in 2016, Swaziland is the country with the highest HIV prevalence in the world. UNICEF reports that the epidemic’s effects are felt across all aspects of society: the high prevalence of the virus draws financial resources from other priority areas and burdens the country’s health system. It also affects capital accumulation and productivity negatively. Families and communities are disrupted by the virus and the number of orphans and vulnerable children has increased.

In the past years, prevention and treatment to fight the HIV epidemic were scaled up significantly in the small monarchy. The Swazi government received support for these efforts from the U.S. government President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief program (PEPFAR) and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

Swaziland’s strategy to contain the further spread of HIV is to dose patients with antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) immediately after they have tested positive, regardless of their health status.

ARVs drive down the HIV level in the blood, therefore reducing the risk of transmission of the virus. The concept of treatment-as-prevention aims to contain the further spread of the HI virus, and is “a major part of the solution to ending the HIV epidemic”, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). The number of adults with HIV in Swaziland who have their viral load suppressed has doubled in the past five years and is now at more than 73 percent, according to the second Swaziland HIV Incidence Measurement Survey.

PEPFAR director Deborah Birx emphasizes that this method does not eliminate HIV in the country, but it can “contract the epidemic on our way to vaccine and a cure.”

The Swazi Ministry of Health has also developed a plan to encourage boys and men to get circumcised voluntarily. In the past years, an increased number of males opted for circumcision. According to the WHO, there is “compelling evidence” that circumcision lower the risk of female-to-male transmissions by 60 percent.

These up-scaled efforts to fight HIV in Swaziland have come to fruition: compared to 2011, the rate of new infections was cut by 44 percent.

In addition to these successes, the incidence survey also brings light to “key gaps that remain in reaching younger men and women with HIV services,” Birx said. People aged 15 to 24 are lagging behind older age groups; they were found to be less likely to know their status, and of those receiving treatment, a quarter did not suppress their infections.

Not only does the information from the survey offer an opportunity for the Swazi government to improve its efforts further and increase focus on the population groups with the greatest need, but it also adds important scientific evidence to the research about the treatment-as-prevention method.

Sibongile Ndlela-Simelane from the Ministry of Health said, in reaction to the study’s outcomes: “We are very encouraged by this progress. We understand that the battle is not over, and therefore we must maintain the momentum.”

Lena Riebl

Swaziland Refugees
As attention turns to the world’s refugee population, it becomes evident that this is a problem area that needs help. Africa alone holds more than 15 million refugees and accounts for a fourth of the world’s displaced population. Swaziland is no different, as the country has seen its fair share of refugees over the past decade. Listed below are 10 facts about refugees in Swaziland:

  1. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) established itself in Swaziland in 1978 to help with an influx of refugees who were fleeing apartheid in South Africa.
  2. In the 1980s, there were as many as 20,000 refugees in Swaziland. As many as 8,000 of these refugees were Mozambicans fleeing from their civil war.
  3. In 2005, the UNHCR handed over all of their refugee services to the Swaziland government, as the number of refugees had drastically decreased following the abolishment of apartheid. Refugees in Swaziland at the Malindza and Ndzevane refugee camps began to rely on the government for key services.
  4. The number of refugees in Swaziland decreased from 759 refugees in 2011 to 505 in 2012.  This change was perhaps due to a massive drought and food concerns in the region that began at that time.
  5. In 2015, a sample of data was collected by the UNHCR concerning refugees in Swaziland.  The data found that the number of refugees still had not reached pre-drought levels and was currently at 696 refugees.
  6. Refugees in Swaziland today come from surrounding countries which includes Burundi, Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Somalia.
  7. New arrivals are held in the Malindza reception center and refugee camp that the UNHCR established. They are supplied with household items and blankets.
  8. Swaziland refugee children are enrolled in schools in order to integrate, and the Swaziland government applies to the UNHCR for funding in order for the children to attend for free.
  9. Malindza has health services for the refugees, including a primary care clinic that services the local community as well. The government understands that refugees come from difficult circumstances, so they also provide counseling services.
  10. In addition to providing household items, the opportunity to have gainful employment and medical assistance, Malindza and the Swaziland government has set up a food assistance program. This program was created to help new arrivals and the vulnerable which includes disabled persons and children. This program allows these people to receive food prepared in the communal kitchen.

Despite numerous hardships of their own, the people who call this small monarchy in Southern Africa home continue to provide their fellow people of Africa a safe place to escape from difficult circumstances. Although they no longer host thousands of refugees, the country still continues to treat those they do house with respect.

Rachael Blandau

Photo: Flickr

Why is Swaziland Poor

Buffeted over the course of the last few years by drought, the high prevalence of HIV/AIDS and increasing food insecurity, the Kingdom of Swaziland continues its struggle with poverty. It is a lower-middle-income nation with approximately 63 percent of Swazis living below the poverty line. Why is Swaziland poor?

In understanding why Swaziland is poor, there is a need to explore the unequal distribution of land and wealth within the nation. A small, landlocked country in southern Africa, Swaziland is home to 1.1 million people. The majority live on government-owned Swazi National Lands, often less than one hectare in size. On the other hand, private title deed lands receive significant investment and produce important Swazi exports like sugar and wood.

With a rapidly increasing population size, land availability has decreased, and Swaziland’s poor have been forced to farm on the increasingly over-cultivated land. According to the International Fund for Agricultural Development, the intensification of land use may lead to a further decrease in productivity, poorer living conditions and an increase in a number of people living in poverty.

During the 2015-16 agricultural season, Swaziland, already susceptible to low and unpredictable amounts of rainfall, experienced one of its worst droughts in the last 35 years. The drought caused poor harvests and a decrease in food security, which now affects more than 30 percent of the population. Approximately 6 percent of children under the age of five are underweight, and 3 percent of Swaziland’s annual GDP is lost due to child malnutrition.

The answer to the question of why is Swaziland poor must also consider the presence of diseases like HIV/AIDS. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Swaziland has one of the highest rates of HIV/AIDS in the world. This leaves nearly 45 percent of children orphaned and vulnerable. HIV affects 26 percent of those between the ages of 15 and 49, greatly diminishing the country’s workforce and life expectancy, which is approximately 49 years.

Swaziland also has one of the highest incidence rates of tuberculosis, and 80 percent of tuberculosis patients are also affected by HIV. In its effort to provide care and treatment to HIV and tuberculosis patients, the CDC has provided thousands in Swaziland with antiretroviral treatment, HIV testing and counseling services since 2012. These services attempt to both help those needing treatments and ease the strain put on the economy by these diseases.

According to Geremia Palomba, in charge of conducting the International Monetary Fund 2017 visit to Swaziland, the main challenges currently facing the country are the significant fiscal readjustments and reforms needed to ensure future economic stability.

“Policies need to be carefully designed to address the main sources of recent fiscal deterioration and include both expenditure and revenue measures that can support long-term growth,” Palomba stated in an end-of-mission press release. “Structural reforms to address the lack of skilled workers, better align wage and productivity dynamics, simplify business regulations and strengthen the institutional environment have the potential to significantly boost investment and employment.”

By focusing reform efforts on these particular issues, Palomba believes that Swaziland may be able to achieve sustainable economic growth that is both strong and inclusive and will contribute greatly to the lasting stability of the country.

Amanda Quinn

Photo: Flickr

Swaziland is a small landlocked country in southern Africa that borders South Africa and Mozambique. The country is known for having the highest rate of HIV/AIDS prevalence in the world. Most of the country’s 1.3 million inhabitants live in poverty, with 69 percent of people being below the poverty line. The water quality in Swaziland remains unsafe for a large part of the population.

Three hundred and thirty thousand Swazis lack access to safe water, while 500,000 people do not have adequate sanitation. This is especially concerning for a country with so many HIV/AIDS patients that have weakened immune systems and therefore are more susceptible to waterborne diseases. The lack of safe water quality in Swaziland also causes the death of 200 children per year.

The Swazi government tried to offer assistance by drilling boreholes throughout the country, leaving the future management of the boreholes to its users. However, since locals could not afford to pay for the boreholes’ maintenance, the wells became dilapidated.

USAID and nonprofits such as WaterAid have taken measures in order to improve the water quality in Swaziland.

WaterAid lobbies the Swazi government to ensure that there is funding for water services to poor citizens. It also educates communities about simple and efficient ways to maintain safe water sources and toilets. In 2016, WaterAid provided 1,000 people with safe water and 1,000 people with better sanitation.

USAID has specifically focused on schools and the methods in which they obtain and use their water. They have set up programs that teach schools how to establish and maintain adequate sanitation systems. They have also provided schools access to clean drinking water. Additionally, with the introduction of new and effective methods for having safe water and good sanitation,

USAID was able to help schools create their own vegetable gardens to improve student nutrition. These programs have been set up in 57 schools and have improved the lives of around 9,000 students.

Anna Gargiulo

Photo: Flickr

Southern Africa is currently undergoing a severe drought, induced by a climate cycle in the Pacific Ocean commonly referred to as El Nino. In addition to Southern Africa, several other countries in the region are also experiencing increased food insecurity. In mid-2016, the World Food Programme (WFP) categorized the Southern Africa region as a Level Three Corporate Response – the highest level of emergency. Currently, about 16 million people in the region need emergency humanitarian assistance. Swaziland is one of the countries of concern in the region, especially since it already faces numerous challenges, including poverty, chronic food insecurity, HIV/AIDS and an erratic climate.

Poverty and Hunger in Swaziland

Swaziland is a small landlocked nation, bordered by South Africa and Mozambique, and has a population of 1.2 million. It is a predominantly rural society, with most of the population dependent on subsistence farming for their livelihoods. Maize is the main crop, grown by over 80 percent of farming households.

Poverty is prevalent in Swaziland, with 42 percent of the population living below the income poverty line of $1.90 a day. This is an especially troubling figure in times of food shortages because the poor cannot afford to buy food. Swaziland is a net importer of food and is vulnerable to food price increases in the rest of the region.

As a result, the poor have had to adopt coping strategies like limiting portions, reducing meals, borrowing food and limiting the types of food they eat. Chronic malnutrition is one of the greatest nutritional concerns and presents a major developmental challenge in Swaziland. One in every four children in Swaziland suffers from stunted growth as a result of malnutrition.


Swaziland has a high prevalence of HIV/AIDS, with 26 percent of adults infected. The health of people living with HIV is particularly concerning. The disease disproportionately affects main income earners and caregivers. These households are more vulnerable to drops in food production or rising food prices because their income and productivity levels are already lower due to HIV.

Erratic Climate

Swaziland regularly experiences erratic rainfall, recurrent droughts and soil degradation, all of which adversely impact food security. Since 2014, the cropping seasons in Swaziland have been characterized by prolonged dry spells which result in widespread crop losses and reduced yields. The last few years have seen some of the worst maize production on record. The WFP estimates that nearly half the population will face some food insecurity in 2017, while 350,000 people will need urgent food assistance.

These interrelated challenges all contribute to high levels of hunger in Swaziland.

Helena Kamper

Photo: Flickr

The small country of Swaziland might be the first in southern African to eliminate malaria.

According to the National Malaria Control Programme, malaria in Swaziland has declined by 99 percent between 2000 and 2014. With only 603 confirmed cases this year, Swaziland is poised to eliminate the disease by 2016.

The Malaria Elimination Group, an independent international advisory group, convened at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) to highlight the country’s achievement.

Over 60 representatives from the Ministries of Health, the World Health Organization (WHO) and international donors associated with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation were also present.

Swaziland’s success can be attributed to multiple factors. The Malaria Elimination Group praised the country’s “strong surveillance and response system that has accounted for much of its malaria elimination success.” The group also recognized that strong political support from the country was a contributing factor as well.

The support of a 2008 grant from the Global Fund to Fight AIDs, Tuberculosis and Malaria assisted officials in the fight against malaria in Swaziland. With financial assistance from the fund, the country began an aggressive program to help fight malaria, strengthening case management as well as placing an emphasis on surveillance and response. Malaria_in_Swaziland

In order to ensure continued success, the Malaria Elimination Group says that “cross-border measures need to be strengthened.”

“For many eliminating countries, including Swaziland, close collaboration with neighboring countries is the key to success,” said Sir Richard Feachem, chair of the Malaria Elimination Group and director of the UCSF Global Health Group.

“If malaria knows no borders, then neither should our efforts to eliminate the disease. Swaziland’s surveillance and response [will be] unparalleled in the region; however, persistent imported malaria cases from endemic neighboring countries, particularly southern Mozambique, mean that a regional approach is essential for realizing our goal of a malaria-free southern Africa,” he added.

Swaziland is taking a leadership role in order to help other southern African countries eradicate malaria. Swaziland’s Minister of Health is also the Chair of the Elimination 8 (E8) which is “an eight-country effort that aims to eliminate malaria in four southern African countries by 2020.”

The E8 was recently awarded a $17.8 million grant from the Global Fund to strengthen malaria prevention as well as “improve regional surveillance and diagnostic capabilities.”

The grant underscored the overwhelming importance of totally eliminating the disease.

Said Hon. Minister Ndlela-Simelane, “This grant further strengthens our resolve to eliminate the disease. It will allow us to overcome our cross-border challenges, which we could not address in the scope of our national programs. Now, with this grant, we will have real-time date to address mobile and migrant populations that are highest risk of malaria.”

Alyson Atondo

Sources: Medical Xpress, UCSF, Times Live
Photo: Flickr1, Flickr2

For a Swazi, the most difficult time of survival is the first five years after birth. Malnutrition in Swaziland is responsible for 8 percent of child mortality. Because of an unorganized health system, 69 percent of child malnutrition cases go untreated.

Malnutrition is classified into two stages: chronic and acute. According to World Vision International, “chronic malnutrition results in stunting, or reduced growth in height, and means that a child has persistently not received adequate nutrition. Stunting affects one-third of all children in developing countries.”

Acute malnutrition is more expedited, resulting “in wasting, or rapid weight loss, and means that a child has experienced a relatively sudden drop in food intake. This is usually due to a severe food shortage or period of illness. Ten to 13 percent of children under five suffer from acute malnutrition.”

A study released by the World Food Programme (WFP) reveals that Swaziland relies on international donors to keep famine at bay. But in reality, this only conceals the fact that there are food shortages and malnutrition affecting the Swazis.

The Cost of Hunger in Africa (COHA) survey was initiated by Swaziland’s National Children’s Coordinating Unit and the Ministry of Economic Planning and Development, the first survey of its kind in Swaziland.

This survey found that the effects of malnutrition in Swaziland have stunted about 40 percent of adults. Because the effects of malnutrition can be seen throughout the lifetime of a Swazi, this creates a domino effect in the country.

Economic Planning Minister Prince Hlangusempi Dlamini noted “The saddest thing is that this cycle [of malnutrition] is not limited to the life cycle of each individual, but affects that person’s children, who will pass it on to yet another generation.”

Recommendations following the report suggest Swaziland spending massive amounts on a nutritional intervention, but Swaziland is unable to provide such financing. What can be done to bridge the gap between the much needed funding?

The Power of Nutrition, a new fund created by UNICEF and the World Bank Group in April, will help millions of children affected by malnutrition. And as a way to combat malnutrition in the years to come, The Power of Nutrition will also help countries build healthy and prosperous communities. Aid is the first step in helping, but developing communities will ensure that malnutrition will not affect future generations.

One of the goals of The Power of Nutrition includes trying to break the cycle of undernourished girls, who become undernourished mothers and give birth to undernourished babies. This is similar to the cycle of malnutrition found in Swaziland being passed form generation to generation.

With a fund like The Power of Nutrition, which hopes to raise $1 billion to tackle children’s nutrition, Swaziland would be able to receive the funding essential for the nutritional overhaul. The funding would end the vicious cycle of malnutrition carrying over to the next generation.

– Kerri Szulak

Sources: All Africa, Food Business News, UNICEF, World Vision International, Photo
Photo: Sustainable Conversations