The World Food Program has fallen more than US$9 million short in its fundraising to help ease the hunger crisis gripping Swaziland / eSwatini.
That amounts to only 47 percent of the US$17.4 million it hoped to raise, the WFP ‘resource situation’ report for June 2019 states.
In a separate briefing for May 2019 WFP says ‘an estimated 22 percent of the population [of 1.1 million] has been food insecure in the past ten years’.
It adds, ‘Chronic malnutrition is a main concern in Eswatini: stunting affects 26 percent of children under the age of five.’
WFP provides social safety nets for 55,000 young orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) of pre-primary school age across the kingdom at neighbourhood care points through access to food and basic social services.
WFP reports, ‘Seventy percent of the rural population live below the national poverty line and 25 percent are extremely poor. Eswatini has a very high HIV prevalence, affecting 26 percent of the population between the ages of 15-49. Life expectancy is 49 years, and 45 percent of children are orphaned or vulnerable.’
In May 2017 the WFP estimated 350,000 people of Swaziland’s population – more than one in three – needed food assistance.
WFP gives no reason for its shortfall in funding but there have been reports in recent years that international donors are concerned about the lavish lifestyle of King Mswati III, who rules Swaziland as an absolute monarch, and his family.
Swaziland is designated a ‘middle income’ country by the World Bank based on the Kingdom’s national income. The problem in Swaziland is that this income is not evenly distributed among the population. The King takes 25 percent of all mining royalties and controls the profits of the conglomerate Tibiyo TakaNgwane. Officially he keeps these monies ‘in trust’ for the Swazi nation, but in reality much of it goes to fund his own lifestyle.
He has two private airplanes, at least 13 palaces and fleets of top-of-the-range cars. At his 50th birthday in 2018 he wore a watch worth US$1.6 million and a suit beaded with diamonds that weighed 6 kg. Days earlier he had taken delivery of his second private jet. This one, an Airbus A340, cost US$13.2 to purchase but with VIP upgrades was estimated to have cost US$30 million.
In 2017 King Mswati was named the third wealthiest King in Africa by the international website Business Insider. It reported he had a net worth of US$200 million (about E2.8 billion in local Swazi currency).
In May 2018 Lucky Ndlovu, the Deputy Prime Minister’s Office Director of Children Services, revealed that neighbourhood care points that feed the hungry across Swaziland were short of food because donations were drying up.
The Sunday Observer reported Ndlovu saying, ‘There is a lack of support from those who used to supply the food. Most of the support was from international donors who are now focussing on other countries which are not classified as middle income countries.’
He added, donors believed Swaziland had enough money but it was not being directed towards the poor.
‘Government must come up with programmes that are pro-poor because the international community is now not willing to support us,’ he said.
In 2018 Afrika Kontakt (Africa Contact), a Danish NGO, reported European Union taxpayers’ money was being used to finance the lavish lifestyle of Swaziland’s royal family through money donated to develop the kingdom’s sugar industry. The report called The European Union in Swaziland: In support of an Authoritarian King? said since the King controlled much of this industry, EU money ‘benefits the Royal Family greatly’ and undermines democratic forces in Swaziland.
The Afrika Kontakt report stated, ‘By continuing to support these sectors, without raising demands from the Swazi Government to prioritize its citizens’ well-being over the lavish lifestyle of its monarch, it is essentially EU taxpayers’ money that finances the lavish spending of the monarchy.’
A separate report written by Klaus Stig Kristensen and published by Afrika Kontakt in 2017 stated that in Swaziland almost 6 percent of the national budget was spent on the Royal Family while only 3.3 percent was spent on agriculture, ‘the engine that is supposed to pull the rural population out of poverty’.
In July 2016 Lisa Peterson, United States Ambassador to Swaziland, warned Swaziland might not receive further food aid from her country because of the Swazi King’s ‘lavish spending’ on holidays. She was responding after it was revealed that at least three of King Mswati III’s wives had been on holiday in Orlando, Florida – with an entourage of more than 100.
The cost of this holiday was equivalent to the drought relief that the US was then providing to the drought-stricken kingdom – E14 million (US$1 million).
News24 in South Africa reported Peterson saying the US had limited funds for drought relief. She said, ‘When we hear of the lavish spending by the Swazi royal family – especially while a third of their citizens need food aid – it becomes difficult to encourage our government to make more emergency aid available. You can’t expect international donors to give more money to the citizens of Swaziland than their own leaders give them.’
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