Close to 700 people taking part in Salesian-run Manzini Youth Care programs, located in the city of Manzini in Swaziland, have better nutrition thanks to an ongoing partnership between Salesian Missions and Rise Against Hunger, an international relief organization that provides food and life-saving aid to the world’s most vulnerable. In the second quarter of 2019, the rice-meals were provided to a Salesian vocational training center, primary schools, two soup kitchens, an orphanage and communities around the city of Manzini.
The meals helped ensure all those taking part in Salesian programs had the proper nutrition to help their health and also enabled them to have the energy to fully take part in programs. Manzini Youth Care was established in the 1970s and provides services to marginalized youth including free primary school for children who have dropped out of school due to poverty, two vocational training centers for older youth, residential care for former street children and a drop-in school for street children when they first come in off the streets. Manzini Youth Care also serves the communities surrounding the city of Manzini to help residents improve their living standards, sanitation and food security.
One of the recipients, Mzwandile Dlamini, is a 19-year-old male who lives in Skom, which is an informal settlement outside the Manzini city center. There is a high rate of unemployment, which leads people in the community to commit crimes in order to be able to put food on the table. There is also poor sanitation. Teenage pregnancy and unplanned pregnancies are on the rise.
Dlamini says, “Life at Skom is not easy for me. I am not happy to stay here because most people in this area are taking drugs, especially my peers (youth). The older ones are drinking traditional brew which is very dangerous to their bodies. Sometimes I leave my place for a while and go to sleep at my friend’s place outside the Skom community. I help members of the community by fetching water and collecting firewood for them. During my spare time, I go to the Skom soup kitchen to help those who are cooking for the children there.”
Before Dlamini started receiving the Rise Against Hunger meals, he used to collect food that was disposed of in garbage bins. Dlamini enjoys that the rice-meals are healthy, balanced nutrition for him. He says his community has also benefited from the Rise Against Hunger meals because people no longer have to steal because of hunger.
The people of Swaziland face immense challenges including poverty, chronic food insecurity, HIV/AIDS and a climate that is often unpredictable. According to the World Bank, an estimated 63 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, and about 29 percent lives below the extreme poverty line. The HIV/AIDS prevalence of 31 percent of the population is among the highest in the world and life expectancy has fallen to approximately 49 years.
Salesian missionaries work to meet the most basic needs while providing education to youth in need. With education, youth can find and retain employment and in turn give back to their families and communities.