Swaziland: 'Starvation' to Hit Swaziland

People in rural Swaziland are about to die of hunger, a newspaper in the kingdom has reported.

The Swazi Observer visited the village of KaMbhoke in the Shiselweni region and described it as a 'valley of death'.

Rains have been scarce this season and crops have failed and now, the newspaper reported, food has run out.

The newspaper reported one unnamed elderly woman saying, 'We are starving, literally starving my child. Just like most of the kitchens in this community right now, there is absolutely no food.'

The newspaper also quoted Simon Mdluli, the locally elected representative of the area, saying, 'Somebody is really going to die.' He said people in the area had nothing to put on their table.

The newspaper described the whole area as 'poverty stricken.'

Mdluli told the Observer, 'Everybody is calling me to their homes just to watch helplessly as their loved ones, especially children and those on retroviral treatment [for HIV] reel in pain because of hunger.'

People in KaMbhoke had in the past received rice from Taiwan as part of the international food aid, but this had now been used up.

Poverty and hunger is widespread in Swaziland where seven in ten of the 1.3 million population earn less than US$2 per day.

The extent of near-starvation in the kingdom is unknown. It is rare for news media in Swaziland to visit rural areas to investigate.

International media are also ignorant of the true extent of hunger in Swaziland. They rarely report on the kingdom and when they do they tend to concentrate on stories of the fabulous wealth of King Mswati III, who rules as sub-Saharan Africa's last absolute monarch.

The King has a personal fortune estimated by Forbes magazine to be US$200 million. While his subjects exist in abject poverty he has 13 palaces, a private jet and fleets of top-of-the range BMW and Mercedes cars.

Last month (January 2014) it was reported that the King was extending one of his palaces and homes and a school would have to be demolished to accommodate it. He is also reported to be building an underground bunker.

In a New Year message to his subjects, King Mswati said that 'hard work and prayer' would solve hunger in his kingdom.

In January 2013, the Swaziland Vulnerability Assessment Committee in a report predicted a total of 115,712 people (one in ten of the population) 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.

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.

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