women in swaziland
From the U.K., the organization Positive Women reaches to the tip of the African continent in Swaziland. With direct aid focusing on health, education and nutrition, Positive Women has successfully campaigned against poverty.

The statistics are startling. Nearly two-thirds of the population live under the poverty line and almost 33 percent of women in Swaziland have reported being sexually assaulted before the age of 18. With one of the worst HIV positive rates in Africa, nearly 15 percent of children are orphans, many due to AIDS complications. In addition, the legal system considers married women to be minors and allows them to marry as young as 13.

The campaign has been benefited by the setup and promotion of the organization. Celebrities like Joseph Morgan, from television’s The Vampire Diaries, and Koula, a television and radio host from South Africa, have helped raise awareness about the organization and the plight of people in Swaziland.

With current campaigns like Just a Million, which encourages a million people to donate at least £1, and Live Below the Line, which challenges people to live temporarily below the poverty line, Positive Women has successfully adapted viral fundraising techniques to its own organization.

Additionally, it outlines the costs of each program and the impact of individual contribution. With simple diverting – giving up a monthly Starbucks drink – an individual could pay for a child’s school tuition. The small donations make it easy for anyone to contribute to the cause and since the founding of Positive Women in 2005, hundreds of orphans have been provided education and countless women have been provided legal counsel.

While there is still much work to be done in Swaziland, the efforts of Positive Women have garnered international attention. The organization is giving people a chance who might not have otherwise received the care and opportunities that Positive Women’s efforts provide.

-Kristin Ronzi

Sources: Positive Women, The Guardian
Photo: Positive Women

hunger in swaziland
Swaziland is considered a low-income to middle-income nation. However, over 50% of the population lives below the national poverty line and makes less than 2 dollars per day.

Weather conditions contribute to the impoverished conditions. Droughts and flooding have caused years of food shortages and an increase in food prices. Maize, which is Swaziland’s main export, exceeded 100,000 tons 10 years ago and is now harvested at a rate of 70,000 tons. Weather, disease and unorganized food management programs are partly to blame for the plummet.

Health complications play a vital role in unsuccessful food productivity. For instance, Swaziland holds the highest rate of HIV/AIDS and Tuberculosis in the world. Nearly half of all women are HIV positive, along with over 80% of tuberculosis patients. With such high prevalence rates of HIV, the number of orphaned children is well over 200,000. Sadly this number will jump by over 50,000 by 2015.

Stunting causes numerous health and work related problems for the population, as well. Roughly 31% of children and over 40% of adults are stunted.

All of these health issues contribute not only to high mortality rates but a poor economy. Reports show adults who are stunted miss more work days and are less productive then non stunted individuals. Stunted individuals have more health problems and are more sickly. Education is also affected by the effects of undernourishment.

Many individuals end up dropping out of school and/or repeat coursework. Therefore workers required to use critical thinking or reasoning skills often provide low productivity. According to “the Cost of Africa Study,” Swaziland loses 783 million per year due to hunger-related illnesses.

Many blame the poverty-related conditions and hunger on the Swaziland government. The king’s lavish lifestyle reportedly depleted funds meant for the starving Swazi people. Reportedly, the king also enjoys 13 palaces, a private jet and luxury cars. He is quoted saying to the starving people that “hard work and prayer” will bring you out of poverty. He says this while the plans to tear down a school for a remolding project for one of his palaces is in the works.

Swaziland is a small landlocked country surrounded by South Africa and Mozambique. Its population, which reigns in at just over one million, is ruled by King Mswati III, one of the last absolute monarchies in the world. Many people believe that hunger, disease and malnutrition would decline if Swaziland became more of a democracy. Mswati does not support democratic transition, however.

– Amy Robinson

Sources: World Food Programme, All Africa, WFP
Photo: Development Diaries