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Wednesday, 20 March, 2002, 13:40 GMT
Starvation threatens Swaziland
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Bhekie Missoula BBC reporter
By the BBC's Bhekie Matsebula

Swaziland has appealed for urgent food aid for its 200,000 people who are on the verge of starvation.

The country's National Disaster Task Force said that nearly 40% of Swaziland's population were at risk of dying following this year's poor harvest.

King Mswati III
80 percent of the kingdom face starvation
The most affected areas are the lowveld, part of the highveld and the Lubombo plateau. The situation is so dire that the authorities are considering closing some of the schools in the area.

The chairman of the Task Force, Ben Nsibandze said the country now needs over 60,000 metric tonnes of maize, Swaziland's staple food, in order to cater for the thousands of starving families.

Empty reserves

Mr Nsibandze told the BBC's Network Africa that maize reserves had dried out and neighbouring South Africa does not have enough stock to export to Swaziland.

He said that government's efforts to get food aid from potential overseas donors have failed.

The withdrawal of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) from Swaziland early this year was another blow to the Task Force's food plans.

The National Maize Corporation reported that it has a problem in importing maize.

Food thefts from maize fields have been reported in Maphungwane, Matsanjeni and Mambane on the Lubombo plateau, forcing police to organise night patrols around the fields.

Private companies have, in the meantime, tried to organise mealie meal distribution to the worst affected families in Matsanjeni and Lavumisa in southern Swaziland.

See also:

19 Feb 02 | Africa
Famine stalks Southern Africa
12 Mar 02 | Africa
Swazis want their sex shops back
25 Jun 01 | Africa
Anger at Swazi media decree
28 Sep 01 | Africa
Swazi king takes eighth wife
26 Jul 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Swaziland
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