Children in Swaziland should prepare themselves for starvation as the government once again fails to deliver free food to schools, a school principal has warned.
At the start of the new year a continuing food crisis is hitting schools across the kingdom, despite government promises that it had solved the problem.
At the heart of the crisis is the Swazi Government’s inability to pay food suppliers.
In the latest twist in the saga the Swazi Observer reported on Thursday (1 February 2018) that schools relying on government aid – known as the zondle programme – ‘must brace themselves for starvation as the Ministry of Education and Training has failed to deliver food to schools on time’.
It said food had been promised by the Minister of Education and Training Dr Phineas Magagula last year but it had still not arrived in many schools.
It reported school principals said some pupils were sick and on medication and depended on the food which was provided at school.
It quoted one principal who wanted to remain anonymous, ‘The pupils should brace themselves for starvation because there is no available food in the school, and they have exhausted the food that was left last year.’
Principals in schools around the Shiselweni region told the newspaper that some pupils went to school without having eaten anything and relied on the feeding programme. ‘They cannot stand the long hours on empty stomachs,’ one said.
Acting Principal at the Ministry of Education and Training Dr Sibongile Mtshali told the Observer food would be delivered to various schools soon, but did not specify the exact date of delivery.
The schools hunger crisis has been going on for at least a year. In August 2017, members of parliament in Swaziland accused the Ministry of Education and Training of lying in a report on severe hunger in the kingdom’s schools.
They were told that the crisis was over and that school committees were stealing food intended for children.
A progress reported tabled to the Swazi House of Assembly by Minister of Education and Training Phineas Magagula was rejected. The shortage escalated after the government did not pay its bills to suppliers. The food includes rice, mealie-meal, cooking oil, beans, and peanut butter.
In a report in May 2017, the World Food Program estimated 350,000 people of Swaziland’s 1.3 million population were in need of food assistance. WFP helped 65,473 of them. It said it was regularly feeding 52,000 orphaned and vulnerable children (OVC) aged under eight years at neighbourhood care points. About 45 percent of all children in thought to be OVCs.
It reported chronic malnutrition affected 26 percent of all children in Swaziland aged under five.
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HUNGER FORCES SCHOOLS TO CLOSE EARLY