So many people are dying of AIDS-related illness that one town in Swaziland / eSwatini is running out of burial space, an online newspaper reported.
The shortage of medicines for many illnesses caused by the government financial crisis is being blamed for some of the increase in deaths.
The Swaziland News reported the municipality of Nhlangano is struggling to meet the demand for new graves.
Apollo Maphalala, Nhlangano Town Council chief executive officer, said graves were being dug in readiness for expected deaths. ‘In Swazi culture this is not allowed, however we prepare the graves to accommodate the demand. We are aware of the drug shortages that might have resulted to the demand, but to us this is just providing a service,’ he said.
Mandla Sibandze, a Nhlangano town councillor, told the newspaper, ‘Many people are dying these days and as the town council, we are running short of a burial space. I may not be sure of the real causes of the deaths but most of them are related to HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and cancer.’
The newspaper reported, ‘It has been confirmed that the Nhlangano Town Council charged E500 (US$33) for burial space and business has been booming since the health crisis erupted resulting in government failure to provide sufficient drugs in hospitals thus causing more deaths.’
Dr Simon Zwane, the Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, told the newspaper Swaziland had a shortage of drugs in hospitals including ARVs for people living with HIV. He also said the number of people falling sick in the kingdom was increasing.
‘The number of diabetic people and those suffering from hypertension has increased; it is difficult to even give you an accurate number as it keeps on increasing. We are also faced with shortage of ARVs as you have seen that our government has a cash flow problem.’
Suppliers have been left unpaid. It is estimated the Swazi Government owes them about E3 billion. There are shortages in health, education and other public services.
The Swaziland News interviewed a local woman Sophie Maziya who said senior citizens were most affected by the medicine shortages. ‘As senior citizens above the age of 60, we are expected to receive free medical treatment, however that doesn’t help us in any way because there are no drugs in hospitals. When I visited the hospital recently I was informed that there were no drugs for diabetes, I had to buy from the pharmacy. A friend of mine who was diabetic died early this year, she was neglected by her children and couldn’t afford to buy the diabetics medication from the pharmacy.’
The financial crisis in the kingdom ruled by King Mswati III as an absolute monarch has been continuing for years. At least six children were reported to have died from diarrhoea in August 2019. Drugs to treat them were unavailable.
In August 2019 the Ministry of Health confirmed in its first quarter performance report delivered to the Swazi parliament that drugs had run out and there were shortages of nurses, midwives and other health professionals. Fuel frequently ran out and ambulances and other vehicles had broken down.
Part of the report stated, ‘While most patients were negatively affected, highly impacted patients were those on psychiatric medication, which stocked out for longer periods and those taking anti-hypertensive treatment. The main cause for stock-outs is failure to pay suppliers on time due to the fiscal challenges facing the government.’
In June 2018 it was revealed there were only 12 working public ambulances in the whole of Swaziland because the government failed to maintain them. It had bought no new ambulances since 2013.
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