Poverty in Swaziland / eSwatini got worse over the past three years, according to a
More than half the people interviewed reported going without enough food and without needed medical care.
The numbers going without food was 56 percent (up from 51 percent from a similar survey taken in 2015). Those going without medical care was 53 percent (up from 33 percent).
The survey of people in Swaziland was undertaken by and published on 4 December 2018. Interviews took place in March 2018.
Afrobarometer, a pan-African non-partisan research network that works in 37 African countries, identified what it called ‘lived poverty’ (a lack of basic life necessities).
It reported, ‘Afrobarometer assesses the prevalence of “lived poverty” by asking respondents how often, over the previous year, they or their family members went without enough food, enough clean water, needed medicine or medical care, enough cooking fuel, and a cash income.’
It added, ‘While lived poverty had been declining in eSwatini between the years 2013 and 2015, there has been an increase since then. The share of citizens who went without enough to eat at least once during the previous 12 months increased by 5 percentage points between 2015 and 2018, from 51 percent to 56 percent, while those who experienced a lack of clean water grew by 7 points, from 47 per cent to 54 percent.
‘The largest increases were observed among those who experienced shortages of medical care (from 33 percent to 53 percent) and cooking fuel (from 30 percent to 49 percent).
‘More than seven in 10 respondents (71 percent) say they went without a cash income at least once during the previous year, up from 68 percent in 2015.
‘High lived poverty (or frequently going without basic necessities) was experienced by one in four citizens and is twice as common in rural areas as in cities (27 percent vs. 14 percent). It declines steeply as respondents’ education level increases: 62 percent of people without formal education experienced high lived poverty, compared to 34 percent of those with primary education, 20 percent of those with secondary schooling, and 11 percent of those with post-secondary qualifications.
‘And lived poverty increases with age, ranging from 16 percent of 18- to 25-year-olds to 39 percent of those who are 56 or older.’
Afrobarometer gave figures from a 2018 World Bank report on Swaziland. Afrobarometer said, ‘Six in 10 citizens (60.3 percent) live in poverty, including 38 percent in extreme poverty, which disproportionately affects children, the elderly, the unemployed, as well as female-headed and single-headed households.’
Afrobarometer is not the first organisation to identify the state of poverty in Swaziland where King Mswati III rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. In 2017, the global charity Oxfam named Swaziland as the most unequal country in the world in a report called detailing the differences in countries between the top most earners and those at the bottom. The Oxfam report stated the government, which is handpicked by King Mswati, ‘failed to put measures in place to tackle inequality, with poor scores for social spending and progressive taxation, and a poor record on labour rights’.
Despite the extreme poverty, the Swazi Government still found US$30 million to buy the King a private jet plane in 2018. King Mswati now has two private planes, 13 palaces and fleets of top-of-the-range BMW and Mercedes cars. He wore a watch worth US$1.6 million and a suit beaded with diamonds weighing 6 kg, at his 50th birthday party in April 2018. He received E15 million (US$1.2 million) in cheques, a gold dining room suite and a gold lounge suite among his birthday gifts.
Meanwhile, the World Food Program has said it cannot raise the US$1.1 million it needs to feed starving children in the kingdom.
Last week it was reported that elderly people in Swaziland had not been receiving their state pensions (known as elderly grants) for the past six months because the Swazi Government did not have the money to pay them.
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