RURAL COMMUNITIES REPORT ON THE DROUGHT
Although recently, even those living in populated towns felt the impact of the drought. The nation continues its struggle to cope with one of the longest dry periods in memory. Nationwide water levels are down and the Swaziland Water Services Corporation instituted water rationing restrictions for the country’s major towns, including the capital city of Mbabane, the commercial hub of Manzini, the Matsapha industrial area and Ezulwini, the centre of the country’s luxury hotel and tourist industry.
In the northern Hhohho region, where rainfall has typically been adequate, the country’s largest reservoir, the Maguga Damn, is down to 37 percent of its capacity. The Dam’s low water level has stalled construction on a power generation plant. The water level in the Lupholo Dam, which supplies Manzini, dropped to 31 percent of its capacity. Substantial, reservoir-filling rain has not fallen since April.
Water rationing is already in place in many rural areas, where taps run dry for days at a time. Most of the water shut-offs are unannounced. If they last for more than several days, the Government trucks in water to the affected communities. Bore holes in many rural communities have dried up and families who once fetched water from springs or dams now cut paths through this exposed, dried earth that no longer yields water.
Four rural tinkhundla (constituencies) take part in this reporting. Information is gleaned from teachers, traditional leaders, rural health motivators, clinics and other community leaders. The constituencies encompass several communities which report on the drought and its impact in relation to food, water, health and education. The tinkhundla represent each of the four regions: Lomahasha in the Lubombo region; Hosea in the Shiselweni region; Mahlangatsha in the Manzini Region; and Timphisini in the Hhohho region.
Comments from each of the four areas echo one another in their desperation.
Food reserves in all areas are running out and reports of hunger are common. In Bhawini in the Mahlangatsha inkhundla, 49 of 70 homesteads, or 70% of the population, reports suffering from hunger. Since water is so scarce, gardens went unplanted, creating a dearth of fresh vegetables in the communities. A lack of food at schools has forced many children to go out without a meal at school, this after skipping meals at home. Children have been turned away from NCPs that have closed due to a shortage of food and water. Families from a community in the Mahlangatsha inkhundla have sent their children to live with relatives in other areas that can afford to feed them. Several homesteads have turned to NCPs to receive food assistance, as they have no other means of eating.
Empty bore holes, springs and rivers have become the norm in many areas, forcing families to share little remaining water with livestock. Hygiene has also suffered. As households reserve water for drinking and cooking, families bathe less and neglect washing clothes. Perhaps most telling are reports of children fighting over water and long lines at the few remaining water sources in Lomahasha.
Nearly every community reports high levels of diarrhea and bilharzias. The Tsambokhulu Clinic in the Lomahasha inkhundla reported more than 100 cases per month of persistent, severe diarrhea since January. Cases of skin conditions and eye infections have also increased in all tinkhundla. HIV and TB have been complicated by a lack of clean water and food, and many patients on ARVs were reported to be suffering since they had no food or water to take with their medications.
Education has also suffered. Many families prioritize money for food over school fees, books and uniforms. Schools in all tinkhundla report increased drop out rates, some communities reporting as many as 30 to 40 students leaving school since the onset of the drought. In addition, children often go without a meal before coming to school, impacting their attention span and concentration. This manifests itself in lower grades and a lack of participation. One school in the Manzini region reported a 30% decline in the pass rate this year.
In the Timphisini inkhundla in the Shiselweni region, even child protection has been impacted by the drought. Teachers have reported that young girls are now having sex with older men in order to get money for food for themselves and their families.
2007 Fire Disaster
2007 Drought Disaster