The situation for children in Swaziland
© UNICEF Swaziland
To improve the legal and institutional frameworks necessary for the protection of children, UNICEF has been advocating the ratification of five major international conventions.
Two-thirds of Swazis live in poverty, most of them in rural areas. Nearly 40 per cent are HIV-positive, giving Swaziland the highest HIV prevalence rate in the world. UNICEF-supported projects are seeking to increase access to anti-retroviral treatments, promote AIDS awareness and fight transmission.
Issues facing children in Swaziland
- Swaziland’s 2008 national survey established that violence against children is a major public health and social problem. Approximately one in three females experienced some form of sexual violence as a child; one in four females experienced physical violence as a child; and nearly three in 10 females experienced emotional abuse as a child. Nearly 5% of females experienced forced intercourse and approximately 9% experienced coerced intercourse before they reached 18 years old.
- Nearly 125,000 Swazi children have lost at least one parent to the epidemic. Already, over 15,000 households in the country are headed by children who raise their younger brothers and sisters by themselves.
- Mother-to-child transmission of AIDS has increased the infant mortality rate by nearly 50 percent since 1995.
- AIDS has created a vicious cycle by breaking down the institution of the family. Orphans often fall into poverty and hunger, drop out of school, and become vulnerable to violence, rape and abuse. Chronic malnutrition affects 40 per cent of children.
- Swaziland suffers from an acute shortage of qualified health-care professionals.
Activities and Results for children
- To improve the legal and institutional frameworks necessary for the protection of children, UNICEF has been advocating the ratification of five major international conventions.
- UNICEF and its partners have established the National Surveillance System on Violence, Abuse and Exploitation, to improve the collection, analysis and dissemination of data concerning child abuse.
- UNICEF and its partners have established a framework that will help prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV, including training for hundreds of nurses and counsellors.
- A novel partnership with faith-based organizations is yielding tremendous results, harnessing the groups’ influence to bolster children’s rights and to prevent or mitigate HIVAIDS. Among the most successful collaborations is a children’s choir competition involving thousands of children in the fight against HIV/AIDS while raising awareness in every community. UNICEF is working directly with churches, whose members look for opportunities to do good works in the community.
- The Neighbourhood Care Points (NCP) project, which reached 50,000 children by 2009, aims to transform NCPs from feeding centres into fully pledged ECCD centres and has early learning at its core.
- UNICEF actively supported the Ministry of Education and Training to implement the first phase of Free Primary education (FPE) for grade 1 and 2 in all schools in the country.
- 'Advocacy by action’ efforts have revolutionized public attitudes about HIV/AIDS and sexual abuse of children. Once hush-hush, these issues are now openly discussed; reporting of sexual abuse (primarily rape) has increased dramatically Child-friendly interview rooms have been added in many police stations.
- UNICEF has supported training for more than 1,500 child protection workers to serve as ‘Shoulders to Cry On,’ offering child-abuse survivors comfort and a sense of hope.