18 June 2018

Swaziland: King's U.S.$1.6 Million Watch Equals 6 Months' Aid

As King Mswati III, the absolute monarch of Swaziland, wears a watch worth US$1.6 million and a suit beaded with gold weighing 6 kg, the World Food Program has said it cannot raise the US$1.1 million it needs to feed starving children in the kingdom.

King Mswati turned 50 in April 2018 and wore the watch and suit at his birthday party. Days earlier he took delivery of his second private jet, a A340 Airbus, that after VIP upgrades reportedly cost US$30 million. He received E15 million (US$1.2 million) in cheques, a gold dining room suite and a gold lounge suite among his birthday gifts.

In a report published at the end of May 2018, the World Food Program said it needed US$1.13 million for the six months to November. It reported that due to lack of funds it had to halt indefinitely the Food by Prescription programme that assists people living with HIV and TB. The programme offers nutrition assessments, counselling and support services to 24,000 malnourished people receiving antiretroviral therapy (ART), treatment for TB, prevention of mother to child transmission (PMTCT) services, as well as support to their families through a monthly household ration.

The report said despite its status as a lower middle-income country, 63 percent of Swazis lived below the national poverty line. Chronic malnutrition is a main concern and stunting of growth affects 26 percent of children under the age of five. The HIV rate in Swaziland is 26 percent of the population between the ages of 15-49. Life expectancy is 49 years, and 45 percent of children are orphaned or vulnerable.

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