27 September 2018

Swaziland: No Food for Hospital Patients As Broke Swaziland Government Leaves Supplier Bills Unpaid

Photo: Daily Nation
(file photo)

The public hospital in Swaziland's capital city Mbabane has run out of food for patients because the government has not paid its bills to suppliers.

It is the latest in the long line of cases of the kingdom's health services grinding to a halt because of government mismanagement of the economy.

The Times of Swaziland reported on Wednesday (26 September 2018) that patients only had apples and juice at Mbabane Government Hospital. It said bills to food suppliers had not been paid. It was unclear how much money was owed.

Relatives and friends of some of the patients have taken in food for them. There are 500 beds at the hospital.

The newspaper reported Dr Simon Zwane, Principal Secretary at the Ministry of Health, said there was 'no food for the patients because the ministry had not paid the catering company that provides food for the hospital'.

The public health service across Swaziland (recently renamed Eswatini by absolute monarch King Mswati III) is collapsing because the government has not paid suppliers.

On 14 September 2018 it was reported at least six children in Swaziland had died from diarrhoea and many more were sick because the government was broke and could not pay for vaccines. It would cost US$6 for the vaccine to immunise a child.

Medicines of all sorts have run out in public hospitals and health clinics across Swaziland. Nurses have been protesting to draw attention to the crisis.

In July 2018 it was reported that Swazipharm, Swaziland's largest distributor of pharmaceutical products and medical equipment to the healthcare system in the kingdom, could not buy new stocks because the Ministry of Health had not paid its bill. Swazipharm Sales and Marketing Manager Cindy Stankoczi confirmed it had cut the supply of drugs to local health institutions.

Long before Swazipharm's announcement medicines, including vaccines against polio and tuberculosis had run out in many government hospitals and clinics because drug suppliers had not been paid. 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.

In June 2018 it was revealed there were only 12 working public ambulances in the whole of Swaziland to serve 1.1 million people because the government failed to maintain them. It had bought no new ambulances since 2013.

In his budget speech in March 2018 Finance Minister Martin Dlamini said Government owed E3.1bn (US$230 million) in total to its suppliers for goods and services.

In June 2018 it was reported that children collapsed with hunger in their school because the government had not paid for food for them. The kingdom had previously been warned to expect children to starve because the government had not paid its suppliers for the food that is distributed free of charge at schools. The shortage was reported to be widespread across the kingdom.

Meanwhile, King Mswati III who rules Swaziland as one of the world's last absolute monarchs wore a watch worth US$1.6 million and a suit beaded with diamonds weighing 6 kg, at his 50th birthday party in April. 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.

Seven in ten of Swaziland's 1.1 million population live in abject poverty with incomes less than the equivalent of US$2 per day. The King has 13 palaces. He also owns fleets of top-of-the range Mercedes and BMW cars. His family regularly travel the world on shopping trips spending millions of dollars each time.

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