Some HIV patients in Swaziland are so poor they are forced to eat cow dung to fill their stomachs before they can take life-saving ARV drugs.
They mix the dung with water to help them digest it.
ARV drugs do not work on an empty stomach, so patients have to use the dung to line their stomachs. They are too poor to afford food and they don’t often get handouts from international aid agencies which work across Swaziland trying to keep people from starving.
The Swaziland Network of People with HIV and AIDS (SWANNEPHA) reported that people in the drought-stricken Lubombo are particularly affected.
Siyabonga Sithole, the SWANNEPHA field officer in Shiselweni region, confirmed to the Swazi Observer newspaper that some people relied on cow dung before taking the medication.
Joseph Souza, the Lugongolweni MP, told the newspaper he had personally met people who eat dung before taking their ARV tablets.
He told the newspaper that people were going hungry and there were not enough food hampers from aid agencies to cater for the ‘thousands of needy people’ who needed them.
The newspaper reported him saying, ‘In some areas, for instance under my constituency, we find ourselves having to distribute one 50kg bag of meal-meal to 10 families. You can then imagine how much each family takes home from this.’
Thembi Nkambule, director of SWANNEPHA, said it was heart breaking to hear people forced to eat cow dung.
‘What I know is that there were worse things that people on ARVs ended up taking lately just to have something in their stomachs for the medication to settle. That others have opted to take cow dung is very disturbing and it’s an indication of how bad the situation has become,’ the Observer reported him saying.
About 70 percent of the Swazi population are so poor they live in abject poverty, earning less than US$2 a day. At least one third of the 1 million population of the kingdom receive some form of donor food aid each year. Swaziland is ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, who was reported by Forbes in 2009 to have a personal fortune of US$ 200 million. He has 13 wives, and each has a palace paid for by the Swazi people.
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