The Kingdom of Swaziland is a landlocked country, almost entirely contained within the northeast corner of South Africa. It faces numerous challenges including poverty, chronic food insecurity and HIV/AIDS, and was severely affected by two years of drought caused by the recent El Niño phenomenon.
With a population of 1.1 million people, Swaziland ranks 150 out of 188 in the 2015 Human Development Index. Despite its status as a lower middle-income country, 63 percent of Swazis live below the national poverty line.
Swaziland has a high prevalence of HIV, affecting 26 percent of the population between the ages of 15 and 49. Life expectancy is 49 years and 45 percent of children are orphaned or vulnerable. Chronic malnutrition is a major concern: stunting affects 26 percent of children under 5 years. In the same age group, 2 percent suffer from wasting and 6 percent are underweight. The Cost of Hunger in Swaziland report found that 3 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is lost annually to child malnutrition.
Swaziland is ranked 128 out of 188 countries in the Gender Inequality Index. Factors contributing to increased vulnerability among women and girls include poor access to income-generating opportunities and social services; and gender-based violence.
Swaziland is also vulnerable to drought, primarily in the south-east. In 2015/16, Southern Africa experienced the driest agricultural season of the past 35 years as a result of the El Niño phenomenon. Swaziland – where 77 percent of the population rely on subsistence farming for their livelihoods – was one of the countries in the region hardest hit by the drought. The exceptional lack of precipitation, compounded by the impact of poor rainfall the previous year, resulted in significant losses of rain-fed yields, underperforming irrigated crops, and poor pasture conditions. This has contributed to an increasingly critical situation, with food insecurity affecting over 30 percent of the population.
What the World Food Programme is doing in Swaziland
During the peak of the lean season (until April 2017), WFP plans to assist 250,000 people affected by the El Niño-induced drought with in-kind food distributions and cash-based transfers. Under the cash component – implemented for the first time in Swaziland - individuals receive unconditional cash transfers using mobile money. The project supports the Government’s response with the aim to improve and stabilize household food consumption for drought-affected groups.
Under the leadership of the Ministry of Health, WFP implements the Food by Prescription project targeting some 15,000 people per month, including people on anti-retroviral therapy or tuberculosis treatment, and women seeking prevention of mother-to-child transmission and ante-natal care services. WFP provides malnourished clients with individual monthly take-home rations of specialized nutritious food in order to improve their nutritional status and treatment outcomes, and supports their families through monthly household rations.
WFP targets 52,000 young orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) through the provision of nutritious meals at community-led day care centres called neighbourhood care points (NCPs), across the country. The project aims to increase OVC access to nutritious food and basic social services, such as early childhood education, psychosocial support and basic health services provided at the NCPs.