Quantitative assessment of the social assistance system of the Kingdom of Eswatini

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According to the 2016/17 Eswatini Household Income and Expenditure Survey (SHIES) Eswatini has 283,483 households, of which 164,125 (57.9%) are not poor, 84,019 (29.6%) are moderately poor and 35,349 (12.5%) are extremely poor. The absolute poverty line is based on the costs of a basket of basic food and non-food items (E975.30 per person per month). The extreme poverty line (identical with the food poverty line) is based exclusively on the costs of a food basket that meets the minimum food energy requirements without providing for any non-food needs (E463.40 per person per month).

As people have to spend a minimum of 20 to 30% of their income on non-food needs (health, clothing, shelter, sanitation, education, transport, etc.), people living below the food poverty line are not able to meet their food energy requirements. Typically, they can afford only one meal per day. They suffer from chronic hunger and undernutrition and can hardly meet any of their basic needs.
The distinction between moderate poverty (households which are absolutely poor but not extremely poor) and extreme poverty is important. Persons living in extremely poor households suffer from severe hunger during most of the year, become physically weak, tend to sell or consume their productive assets (e.g. livestock, tools, seed), give up investing in their future (like sending children to school) and die from infections that other people survive. For these reasons, extremely poor people are slow to respond to programmes which demand a certain amount of effort and contribution (like credit and saving schemes).

With regard to the causes of poverty, it is estimated that out of the 35,349 households suffering from extreme poverty, approximately 15,446 are poor because of conjunctural factors. Conjunctural poverty is caused by unemployment or underemployment. It involves households with able-bodied adults who have no access to productive employment. If these households get access to skills training, to productive assets, to employment or to well-designed public work programmes, they are able to escape from poverty.

The extreme poverty of the other 19,903 households is structural as it is related to the structure of the household. These households have few or no able-bodied adult household members. In statistical terms, these households have either no household member who is fit for productive work or they have a high dependency ratio. They are labour constrained. As a result of HIV and AIDS or due to other reasons, breadwinners have died leaving grandparents who are too old to work and orphans who are too young. Labour constrained households cannot react to self-help oriented or labour-based projects or programmes. Single mothers with a large number of children, households headed by disabled people and child-headed households also belong to this category.