Saturday, May 7, 2011


Swaziland’s most prestigious public hospital has been without bandages for two weeks.

Patients are being ‘forced to sleep with their wounds open and leaking’.

Others are made to buy their own bandages and those who can’t afford them are forced to go home untreated.

All wards in Mbabane Government Hospital are without bandages for the second consecutive week, the Weekend Observer reported today (7 May 2011).

Nurses said ‘dozens and dozens’ of patients who needed treatment had been turned away.

When sought for comment by the newspaper, Dr Stephen Shongwe, Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Health, said ‘he was not aware of this matter, and wondered how it could happen that an entire hospital was out of crucial material like bandages’.

How could it happen? Swaziland is in the grip of an economic meltdown and even though the government, handpicked by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, promised the 20 percent public expenditure cuts it demanded from departments would not impact on health services, it has.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is in town at present to look over Swaziland’s books to see if the economy is being run well enough for the Swazi Government to be granted a loan to help it out of its mess.

I hope the IMF asks the government why it hasn’t kept its promises about health care.

While it’s asking questions, the IMF could also talk about spending priorities in the kingdom.

While patents at Mbabane Government Hospital went without bandages, King Mswati jetted off to London for the British Royal Wedding.

Reliable sources say the private jet he used to get to the UK cost E4.7 million ($US700,000). He stayed at the Four Seasons Hotel, London, for nearly a week, where the cheapest room is E5,400 ($US800) per night (and I doubt that he stayed in the cheapest room). He is widely reported to have taken 50 people with him on the trip. This figure is disputed, but the AFP news agency reported an eyewitness who saw 15 - 20 people getting on the jet before it left Matsapha Airport.

By my calculation that’s at least E5.3 million spent on the trip of King Mswati. That sum would have bought a heck of a lot of bandages.

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