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Wednesday, 15 October 2014

HUNGER INCREASES IN SWAZILAND

More than three in ten people in Swaziland are undernourished, a new report reveals.

And, unlike many other countries in sub-Saharan Africa where hunger has been decreasing, Swaziland is an exception, the Global Hunger Index reveals.

Swaziland suffered the biggest increase in a Global Hunger Index score among any African country between 1990 and 2014.

The report published by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), defines undernourishment as an inadequate intake of food - in terms of either quantity or quality.

The proportion of people who are undernourished more than doubled in Swaziland since 2004–2006 and in 2011-2013 was 35.8 percent of the kingdom’s 1.3 million population or about 455,000 people.

IFPRI reported that since 1990, life expectancy in Swaziland fell by ten years, amounting to only 49 years in 2012.

IFPRI reported, ‘In Swaziland, the HIV / AIDS epidemic has severely undermined food security along with high income inequality, high unemployment, and consecutive droughts. Swaziland’s adult HIV prevalence in 2012 was estimated at 26.5 percent - the highest in the world.’

The latest report underscores numerous previous surveys demonstrating the state of hunger in the kingdom, ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. Seven in ten of the population live in abject poverty with incomes less than US$2 a day. The King has 14 wives, 13 palaces, a private jet and fleets of BMW and Mercedes cars.

In January 2013 the Swaziland Vulnerability Assessment Committee in a report predicted a total of 115,712 people in Swaziland would go hungry in 2013 as the kingdom struggled to feed its population as the economy remained in the doldrums.

The report said problems with the Swazi economy were major factors. The kingdom was too dependent on food imports and because of high price inflation in Swaziland people could not afford to buy food. About seven in ten people in Swaziland live in abject poverty, earning less than US$2 a day.

This was not an isolated statement. In 2012, three separate reports from the World Economic Forum, United Nations and the Institute for Security Studies all concluded the Swazi Government was largely to blame for the economic recession and subsequent increasing number of Swazis who had to skip meals.

The reports listed low growth levels, government wastefulness and corruption, and lack of democracy and accountability as some of the main reasons for the economic downturn that led to an increasing number of hungry Swazis.

The Swazi Government was also accused in May 2013 of deliberately withholding food donated from overseas as aid from hungry people as a policy to induce them to become disaffected with their members of parliament and blame them for the political situation in the kingdom. Newspapers in Swaziland and abroad reported the government wanted to punish the kingdom’s MPs for passing a vote of no confidence against it.

It was also revealed that the Swaziland Government had sold maize donated as food aid by Japan for hungry children in the kingdom on the open market and deposited the US$3 million takings in a special bank account.

A report in July 2013 called The Cost of Hunger in Africa, which was prepared by the Government of Swaziland working together with World Food Programme, found that around 270,000 adults in the kingdom, or more than 40 percent of its workers, suffered from stunted growth due to malnutrition. As a result, they were more likely to get sick, do poorly in school, be less productive at work and have shorter lives.

Poverty is so grinding in Swaziland that some people, close to starvation, are forced to eat cow dung in order to fill their stomachs before they can take ARV drugs to treat their HIV status.  In 2011, newspapers in Swaziland reported the case of a woman who was forced to take this drastic action.

In July 2012, Nkululeko Mbhamali, Member of Parliament for Matsanjeni North, said people in the Swaziland lowveld area had died of hunger at Tikhuba.

See also

GOVT ‘DELIBERATELY STARVING PEOPLE’
CORRUPTION ‘LEADS TO STARVATION’
FEAR OF MASS HUNGER IN SWAZILAND

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