With the increasing impact of the Coronavirus across the world, I thought it would be useful to give you an update on the situation in Eswatini (Swaziland) and the issues with the vulnerable children we are supporting. Over the past three weeks I have been in regular contact with friends and colleagues in Swaziland to ascertain the problems being experienced by our two Centres and the schools.
On the 6 April the Government of Eswatini implemented a strict partial lockdown along the lines we have applied in the UK. This proved unsuccessful as many of the people relied upon roadside access for food and live in conditions of extreme poverty. The country is now operating a full lockdown where only essential businesses (banks, limited transport and registered food outlets) are permitted to stay open. All non-essential shops, restaurants, hawkers businesses etc are closed. The Police and Army are monitoring and strongly enforcing the lockdown, sometimes brutally. The Government has no money. It owes suppliers circa £20M for past services so employers do not have financial help to pay employees. All schools and community feeding centres are closed and although individual efforts are being made to distribute food to the vast majority of people there is a high risk of malnutrition.
As you are no doubt aware the spread of the virus to Africa is some 2-3 weeks behind Europe. Statistics on infections and deaths cannot be relied upon as there are few tests and even when taken they have had to be sent to South African laboratories for examination. Late last week a small laboratory was enabled in Eswatini to verify tests. The “official” statement is that 14 people have been identified with the virus. Due to the high level of people who are HIV positive (circa 200,000 from a population of 1.2M) and the high incidence of T.B. if the virus takes hold many people will be at severe risk having weak immune systems. The health care system is poor and in a chaotic state. Many people are in a dilemma regarding the options of malnutrition/virus infection.
Regarding our two centres which have been feeding around 200 vulnerable children each day, we have had to close due to Government instruction. However, we have arranged for food parcels (sufficient for a families monthly supply) to be provided for the majority of the children and their guardians. This has been done in conjunction with the charity SOS Children’s Villages. Sponsored children are now staying at home and it is uncertain when schools will re-open. We are keeping a watchful eye on developments and will provide as much help as financial possibly.
The situation is grave however the people of Eswatini are brave and resilient. We will move forward.
I take this opportunity of thanking you for your support and donations and wish you a safe journey through these difficult times.
Chairman, Partners in Education Swaziland