1 February 2013

Swaziland: So Poor, Woman Has to Eat Cow Dung

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. Once the news went global, apologists for King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa's last absolute monarch, denounced the report as lies.

Now, a video obtained by Think Africa Press reveals the hardships faced by the woman and more generally the poverty in Swaziland under King Mswati.

The video tells the story of Sophie Magagula, living in Siteki. She struggles with abject poverty as well as HIV. The video was made in 2011 and 2012.

Magagula explains that she needs to have food with her anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs, but with food scarce, she was forced to eat anything she could find - including cow dung - to continue her course of medication. The video shows her mixing the cow dung in readiness for eating.

Magagula says she had rely on help from people 'from far off places' who provided food and clothing for her family, but she still struggles and needs to regularly travel vast distances to reach the clinic.

The video reports that many like Magagula are struggling in Swaziland. It says the king has been repeatedly criticised for leading a lavish lifestyle while his people suffer.

Only last week an official report from within Swaziland estimated that one in ten people in the one million population of Swaziland would not get enough food this year and would go hungry.

A total of 115,712 people face food shortages in 2012/2013, according to the Swaziland Vulnerability Assessment Committee. The number has increased by 88,511 from 2011.

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

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