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Sunday, 4 August, 2002, 04:59 GMT 05:59 UK
Food aid reaches famine-hit Swaziland
People sitting in a field
UN says nearly 13 million people in Africa are at risk

Food aid has started arriving in Swaziland - one of the Southern African countries in the middle of the current emergency where 140,000 people are suffering severe food shortages.

Victim of famine
People with HIV/Aids are especially vulnerable to hunger
The high level of HIV/Aids in this small landlocked country has exacerbated the impact of the drought - the worst in more than five years.

A third of the population are HIV positive.

With the food shortages expected to worsen by the end of the year it is forecast that more than 20% of the million-strong Swazi nation will be surviving on aid.

Fight for survival

People in the south-east of Swaziland - where the majority of those affected by the drought live - were celebrating Women's Day.

UN food aid appeal for southern Africa
Target: more than $600m
Zimbabwe: $285m for more than six million people
Malawi: $144m for more than 2.3 million people
Zambia: $71m for more than 2.3 million people
Mozambique: $44m for more than 500,000 people
Lesotho: $41m for nearly 500,000 people
Swaziland: $19 m for nearly 150,000 people
$6.8m for regional needs

The event was not only to mark the huge significance of the work women do in this part of the world.

It was also an opportunity to teach people about how to cope with the food shortages and bring the community together to re-emphasize the significance of HIV/Aids in this mountain kingdom.

"It's really very bad and it's very much exacerbated by HIV/Aids," Pamela Megit, from the Lutheran Development Service non-governmental organisation, said.

"So many adults have died that we're now facing a situation where we've got 10%, in this area anyway, of households headed by children.

"That's children under-18, or alternatively very old people in their eighties. People who can't work, so those households find it very difficult to survive."

'Change, not giveaways'

Food aid is now arriving in the country.

Famine crisis:

Grain and oil from the US is being distributed through the NGOs who know where those most in need are.

Swaziland is an absolute monarchy, not a dictatorship, but it is also not classified as a democracy in the western sense.

"This part of the country is really the most dry part, that's where we have our severe droughts as well," Queen Labikiza, one of the King Mswati's nine wives and a campaigner against poverty and HIV/Aids said.

"That's why I think we find ourselves being in a situation of poverty because people in the rural areas most of the time rely on subsistence farming.

"Of course, more can be done. It's just that our system of governance is rather slow at distributing things the way they should, especially the basic things like water and shelter and stuff like that, but they do try."

Food aid is not, of course, the answer.

The poor and hungry with their failed crops live in view of lush green fields of sugar cane, a commercial crop.

Many charity workers in Swaziland believe a change of policy from the government is the way to solve the problem in the long term, not giveaways.

Key stories

Horn of Africa

Southern Africa

West Africa

Ways to help



See also:

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30 May 02 | Africa
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