Swaziland: Drought - Office of the Resident Coordinator Situation Report No. 3 (as of 30 Apr 2016)



  • Government has since approved a supplementary budget to support some of the activities of the NERMAP to the tune of $7,057,538.59, following extending the duration of the drought emergency declared two months ago to May 18, 2016.

  • The United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) approved US$3.14 million to commence immediate, life-saving humanitarian interventions. This funding will enable the World Food Programme and UNICEF to provide food and emergency water and sanitation services to 95,000 of the most vulnerable people.

  • This funding follows a $75,000 emergency cash grant from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) to provide water to some of the most affected schools, hospitals and communities and a $100,000 from UNDP Crisis Bureau Unit for coordination.

300,000 People requiring humanitarian assistance

25% Of total population affected

$80 m Required for both immediate and longer term activities

64,000 People being supplied with clean water

72,000 People receiving food assistance

74,000 People receiving health and nutrition assistance

Situation Overview

An El Niño-induced drought has seriously affected food and nutrition security and water availability across Swaziland. Maize production is expected to be 64 per cent below the previous season, which itself was below average. An estimated 64,000 cattle have already perished in the drought, threatening lives and livelihoods. The drought has pushed the number of people in need of food assistance to 300,000, which accounts for about 25 per cent of the total population. The next main harvest season is not until April 2017, meaning food and nutrition indicators can only be expected to deteriorate over the coming months, which is of great concern given the already high rates of chronic malnutrition (according to MICS 2014 data, about 25.5 per cent of the children under age 5 are stunted in growth).

The situation is exacerbated by the fact that not only Swaziland but the entire Southern African region has been hit by the drought. South Africa, on which Swaziland relies for food importation, has also seen a significant reduction in maize production. According to AgriSA, South Africa’s white maize prices have increased by 150 per cent over the past 12 months alone. This means that even where maize is available on the market, its price will put it well beyond the means of most, particularly given the fact that 63 per cent of Swazis live below the poverty line.

The country has one of the highest prevalence of HIV-infected adults (26 per cent of people aged 15 to 49 years). Food insecurity affects adherence to anti-retroviral (ARV) therapy as patients cannot take treatment on an empty stomach. Lack of food also affects access to health services as many people prioritize the little financial resources they have to buy food rather than pay for travel to a health facility.

Water scarcity is the other major consequence of the drought, with water rationed to only a few days a week in some urban areas, as boreholes and rivers run dry. Major Dam levels have not significantly improved even with the rains experienced during the rainy season. While the water situation is already critical, the country is yet to enter the dry season, which lasts from April to October. This has massive implications on all sectors of society, affecting overall sanitation conditions. Schools are facing a water and sanitation crisis, affecting almost 80 per cent of all education institutions. The water crisis has also impacted healthcare, as medical facilities cannot function properly without a guaranteed supply of clean water.

The ongoing emergency has the potential to worsen protection concerns such as gender-based violence, sexual and economic abuse and difficulty in accessing integrated sexual and reproductive health services. Groups most affected and vulnerable to exploitation, violence and abuse include women and youth, especially girls, orphans and vulnerable children (OVCs). Adolescent girls are particularly at risk of urinary tract infections due to poor menstrual hygiene associated with poor sanitary conditions.

Fully recognizing the urgency of the situation, the Government of Swaziland declared a national drought emergency on 18 February 2016 and together with partners launched a response plan – the National Emergency Response, Mitigation and Adaptation Plan (NERMAP 2016 to 2022). The government since extended the duration of the drought emergency to May 18, 2016. As the response continues, efforts are underway to collect more detailed assessment data and identify life-saving interventions.