Tuesday, April 21, 2020

MPs demand Govt. action as hunger spreads across Swaziland during coronavirus lockdown

The House of Assembly in Swaziland (eSwatini) has demanded immediate action from the government as hunger spreads across the kingdom and doctors and nurses continue to be without vital personal protective equipment (PPE) during the present coronavirus crisis.

Swaziland has been in a partial lockdown since 27 March 2020 with many businesses closed, bans on large gatherings and travel restrictions.

News has emerged of whole communities who have no work and no way of getting food. Hospitals do not have personal protection equipment such as face masks, gloves and gowns. 

As of 21 April 2020 one person had died from coronavirus and 31 tested positive.

Members of parliament in the absolute monarchy ruled by King Mswati III demanded an urgent report from government on how it intended to deal with the crisis. They want food parcels to be sent to the hungry and masks and hand sanitisers to be made available to the public.

They also voiced concerns about how money set aside to tackle coronavirus (COVID-19) had been spent. Some parliamentarians were reported to have been part of businesses who tendered for contracts to supply goods. In the past groups such as Transparency International have reported high levels of corruption in Swaziland.

The House of Assembly threatened to move a vote of no confidence in the government which in Swaziland is not elected but handpicked by King Mswati. In particular they were concerned that the government was giving preferential treatment to certain people and using the Bethel Court Hotel in Ezulwini as a quarantine centre. Other people were expected to use Lubombo Referral Hospital and the TB Centre in Manzini.

In recent days the Swazi media have reported cases of severe hunger across Swaziland. Out-of-work textile workers in Kwaluseni township were said to be facing ‘imminent death from hunger’.

People living on the border of Swaziland and South Africa around Lavumisa who usually travelled into South Africa for food and work had been stopped from doing so by Swazi soldiers because there is a coronavirus lockdown in South Africa. They were reported to be struggling to stay alive, with virtually nothing to eat.

Meanwhile. the Swaziland Democratic Nurses Union (SWADNU) is consulting with lawyers about suing the government for gross negligence in failing to supply nurses at Raleigh Fitkin Memorial (RFM) hospital and all health care workers across the country with adequate protection. A nurse at RFM died of the coronavirus and at least 26 healthcare workers at the hospital are in self-isolation.

The union has already called for the hospital to be temporarily closed so that all healthcare workers can be tested and wards fumigated.

Deputy Prime Minister and Chairman of a National Emergency Task Force set up to tackle coronavirus Themba Masuku denied the government was to blame for the shortage of equipment. He said there was an international shortage affecting most countries. 

He told a press briefing Swaziland had no capability to manufacture PPE but he had appealed to local companies to produce face masks.

See also

People face ‘imminent death from hunger’ in Swaziland as coronavirus lockdown hits poorest

Swaziland nurses’ union calls for closure of major hospital in fight against coronavirus

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