Swaziland 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