Swaziland Govt. Halts Food Aid to Many Elderly People As Coronavirus Crisis Grows

Many elderly people in Swaziland (eSwatini) will no longer receive food aid under a government scheme to tackle hunger during the coronavirus crisis.

People aged 60 and over who receive monthly elderly grants (state pensions) but who do not have to care for others such as grandchildren will not be registered for food aid in the second wave of a government scheme to feed the hungry. They had received aid in the first phase of the scheme.

The National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA) which is coordinating the relief effort confirmed the change this week.

Under the government scheme about 300,000 people of the kingdom's 1.3 million population were supposed to get grants of E700 cash to be used to buy food.

Now, NDMA Chief Executive Officer Russell Dlamini said the money would not go to elderly people who get the monthly E500 elderly grant from the government.

He said, 'We have to be very thoughtful with the funds that we have so many people who need the relief. We are eliminating duplication by not registering elderly who are already receiving grants from the Deputy Prime Minister's Office.'

The Swazi Government's scheme to feed the hungry has been plagued with problems.

The fund was set up to give money to about 300,000 people who faced hunger and possible starvation when they lost their jobs because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown that started on 27 March. Many businesses were forced to close.

There were so many reports across the kingdom that the registration was flawed that in some places the whole process had to start again.

There were numerous reports that organisations tasked by NDMA had failed to identify people genuinely in need. In turn those organisations blamed NDMA saying the process they were asked to follow was flawed.

In June 2020 Dlamini said many people had dishonestly registered for relief.

Media reported that money was going to civil servants, landlords and some law enforcement officers who had registered under questionable circumstances.

Dlamini called on the cheats to immediately pay back the money.

The Swazi Government's feeding scheme was a failure from the start. Prime Minister Ambrose Dlamini had announced it would feed more than 300,000 people by 6 May. By a month after that date only 113,273 people had received aid.

The feeding plan was originally rejected by members of the House of Assembly who preferred that food, rather than cash, be distributed. They feared money would not be spent on food.

On 7 July 2020 the Ministry of Health reported the 14th death from coronavirus in Swaziland. To date 1,056 have tested positive, according to official figures. By 7 June there had been a total of 333 positive cases and three deaths.

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