An El Niño-induced drought has contributed to a projected 64 per cent year-on-year decrease in maize production (the staple food).
An estimated 300,000 people require food assistance – a quarter of the total population.
Water scarcity is affecting all aspects of society, including education (an estimated 189,000 learners) and health facilities (particularly maternity services).
The response is ongoing. Following the declaration of an emergency and the publication of a national response plan, efforts are underway to identify and initiate the most urgent humanitarian activities.
While some resources have been mobilized, including US$16.5m pledged by Government for both immediate and longer term interventions, significant funding is still required, including $29.3m for food assistance, $1.74m for health and nutrition interventions, and $225,000 for increasing school feeding programmes and improving water and sanitation in schools.
300,000 Estimated number of people requiring humanitarian assistance
26% Of total population affected (estimated)
$64 million Required for both immediate and longer term activities
An El Niño-induced drought has seriously affected food and nutrition security and water availability across Swaziland. Maize production is expected to decrease by a projected 64 per cent from the previous season’s harvest, which was itself below average. An estimated 44,000 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 an estimated 300,000, which accounts for about 26 per cent of the total population. The next main harvest season is only in 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 2014 data, about 26 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, leading the Swaziland National Maize Corporation to increase the official price of maize by 66 per cent, with more increases on the horizon.
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 consequences of the drought, with water rationed to only two days a week in some urban areas as boreholes, dams and rivers run dry. 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. In all, an estimated 189,000 learners and 8,157 teachers and support staff have been affected. The water crisis has also impacted healthcare, as medical facilities cannot function properly without a guaranteed supply of clean water. While the water situation is already critical, we have yet to enter the dry season, which lasts from April to October. (Major dams’ water levels have not significantly improved with the recently experienced rains.)
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), and adolescents. 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). As the response continues, efforts are underway to collect more detailed assessment data, and identify and implement life-saving interventions.