31 January 2018

Swaziland: Health Crisis - Blood Supplies Dry Up

Swaziland's blood shortage crisis is continuing. It is one of a number of crises afflicting health in the kingdom.

The Swazi Observer reported on Tuesday (30 January 2018) that blood stocks fell during December 2017 because donors were typically children who gave donations through their schools.

It reported a family of a man suffering from bone marrow deficiency who feared he might die due to the blood shortage.

Deputy Director of Health Dr Velephi Okello confirmed to the newspaper that there was a shortage. The Observer reported her saying, 'Our donors are mainly school going children hence when schools close there are fewer donations coming in which resulted in the shortage.

'Also, during the December holidays, there is a high demand for blood at the exact same time when the donors are not easily accessible.'

She added, 'We will start our campaigns now that the schools have opened and we hope soon the shortage will be a thing of the past.'

The blood shortage crisis has been going on since at least June 2017. At that time the Ministry of Health turned to inmates in correctional facilities for blood but the news agency APA reported some people were against this 'as they said it was against certain standards'.

Swaziland, which is ruled by King Mswati III as sub-Saharan Africa's last absolute monarch, has been gripped by a health crisis for a number of years. Much of it has been caused by the government's failure to pay drugs' suppliers.

Early in January 2018 health facilities were reported to have run out of vaccines against polio and tuberculosis and new-born babies were being put a risk.

In June 2017, Senator Prince Kekela told parliament that at least five people had died as a result of the drug shortages. About US$18 million was reportedly owed to drug companies in May 2017.

As ordinary people died the Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini revealed that King Mswati and his mother paid for him to travel to Taiwan for his own medical treatment. Dlamini was not elected PM by the people of Swaziland. He was personally appointed by the King, as were all other government ministers and top judges in the kingdom. None of Swaziland's senators are elected by the people.

Dlamini celebrated his 75th birthday in 2017. The Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati, reported (5 June 2017), 'The Prime Minister said he was grateful that when Their Majesties were informed about his ailment in April, they responded hastily and ordered that he be taken to the best doctors in Taiwan, Taipei.

'"Their Majesties gave orders that I go to the best and well experienced doctors in Taiwan. I am now looking forward to turning 76 years and I thank God for keeping me safe," he said.'

The nature of his illness has not been publicly revealed.

King Mswati lives a lavish lifestyle with at least 13 palaces, a private jet aircraft with another due to arrive in 2018, and fleets of top-of-the-range BMW and Mercedes cars. Meanwhile seven in ten of his 1.2 million subjects live in abject poverty with incomes of less than US$2 per day.

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