People in a township in Swaziland (eSwatini) face 'imminent death from hunger' after they lost their jobs because of the coronavirus shutdown in the kingdom.
Some are scavenging for edible weeds to eat.
It is happening at the Kwaluseni township, according to a Swaziland newspaper.
Local member of the House of Assembly Sibusiso Mabhanisi Dlamini called on the Prime Minister Ambrose Dlamini to act urgently.
The eSwatini News (part of the Times of Swaziland) reported, 'The residents feel that COVID-19 [coronavirus] has reduced them to mere scavengers forced them to either fight or succumb to imminent death from hunger.'
It added, 'At worst, residents say hunger is exacerbating sickness and disease and threatens to plunge the community back to its shameful era of being the national hotspot for violent crime.'
Many of the residents work in Taiwanese-owned textile factories in nearby Matsapha. Others are vendors who work for themselves, others are maids. All have lost their jobs and have no money.
Hlengiwe Hlatshwako, who earned a living by moving from place to place and doing laundry for people, told the News, 'Now that we have been warned to stay at home, I do not have any source of income and this is worrying me because I have five children whose father has also been told to stay at home. How do we stay indoors with no food to eat? We will die of starvation.'
Sibusiso Mabhanisi Dlamini said he had already sent messages for help to the prime minister and his deputy.
He said, 'People were calling me every now and then asking for food. Some were so desperate that they said even if I gave them mealie-meal, they would gladly eat it with water than to struggle under severe hunger.'
Hunger is widespread across Swaziland. This week the African Press Agency reported more than 11,000 vulnerable children were without food because 650 soup kitchens at neighbourhood care points had closed because of the coronavirus crisis.
The children previously received two meals a day provided by the Swazi government through the assistance of international donors.
It quoted an anonymous official from the Deputy Prime Minister's office saying, 'The situation has been worsened by the fact that schools are also closed yet most of the children would not receive free lunch from schools under the schools feeding scheme.'
Even before the coronavirus outbreak hunger was widespread across Swaziland. About 232,000 people (25 percent of the rural population) were expected to experience severe acute food insecurity, according to the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC).
In November 2019, it was reported in the Times of eSwatini that five elderly women in the Nsalitje area had starved to death and many more were said to be quietly being killed by hunger. A continuing draught and restrictions on importing cheap mealie maize from neighbouring South Africa were blamed.