Swaziland Declares Humanitarian Disaster Due to AIDS Epidemic, Drought
Swaziland Prime Minister Themba Dlamini on behalf of King Mswati on Wednesday declared a humanitarian disaster in the country because of drought and the HIV/AIDS epidemic, Reuters reports (Reuters, 2/19). "AIDS, drought and land degradation, all these have reinforced negative effects that have created a web of extreme vulnerability reinforced by the collapse of family structures," Dlamini said, appealing to the international community for increased aid. Sarah Laughton of the World Food Programme said that the announcement is expected to bring new donor funds to the country, according to BBC News (BBC News, 2/19). Former Swazi Prime Minister Sibusiso Dlamini in January 2003 said that the country's official HIV prevalence had reached 38.6%, up from 34.2% in January 2002. The country ranks behind only Botswana for the highest HIV prevalence rate in the world (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 9/8/03). Unlike many other countries, HIV prevalence in the rural and urban areas of Swaziland are about the same, and the disease has "devastated" the country's farming community, according to VOA News (McDonough, VOA News, 2/19). Analysts say that Mswati, who last month requested $15 million to build new palaces for his 11 wives, has been reluctant to officially declare a humanitarian disaster out of fear that there would be increased scrutiny of his government's spending (BBC News, 2/19). The king also has been criticized by health care workers, who say his practice of polygamy and marrying young women could send the wrong message about the country's AIDS epidemic, which the Swaziland national AIDS project has said is caused largely by the practice of polygamy and a reluctance to use condoms (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 9/8/03).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.