It’s mid afternoon and we’re on the road to Mhlumeni, a rural area in Northern Swaziland. We are going to visit a new family who has reported that they have very limited food and water. The grandparents who live there are caring of their very sick grandson who is floor bound (they have no bed). The grandson soils his pants and the grandmother must try and find ways to clean him with the limited water. The grandson’s hut has no door on it, leaving him susceptible to the risks of bad weather, insects and snakes. Their crops have yielded nothing. They tell us it has been extremely hot this January and that the rains should have begun around December. Without decent rains they know it will be another bad year.
This is one of many stories we are seeing and hearing about on a daily basis.
Swaziland is in severe drought. Crops are failing and many families are doing it tough.
FEWS NET (Famine Early Warning System Network) reported that:
“Most southern African countries including Zimbabwe, Malawi, Lesotho, Zambia, Swaziland, South Africa, and Mozambique experienced a 30-60 day late start to the season. This has delayed planting and resulted in a significant decrease in planted area across countries. With poor and erratic rainfall as a result of the El Niño, the region is likely to experience significant reductions in crop production in 2016, a situation that will worsen food security during the 2016-17 consumption period.”
An Irin report stated that ‘one of the countries least able to cope with crisis is Swaziland. More than 201,000 people out of 1.1 million – one fifth of the population – are food insecure. Maize prices have increased by 66 percent in a country in which just under half of the population is unemployed, and which has the world’s highest rate of HIV infection. Livestock have succumbed to the drought, and carcasses of cattle are now a common sight in the fields that used to feed them. Swaziland’s central bank has released only $75,000 for drought relief’.
The UN stated that “The region is ill prepared for a shock of this magnitude, particularly since the last growing season was also affected by drought. This means depleted regional stocks, high food prices, and substantially increased numbers of food insecure people’.
Because of the drought a lot of families are expecting a significantly reduced harvest or no harvest at all. Swaziland recently had 3 days of rain but we are told that unfortunately it has come too late. Some maize has dried up.
Our hope is that this last bout of rain has at least filled the tanks and added much needed water to the dams, tanks and springs.
Currently Operation Hope assists about 10 families a year with short-term food assistance. Due to the drought we anticipate we will need to increase this help until fields can be planted again and crops harvested. This is particularly important for families with children, the elderly and the sick.