16 July 2020

Situation of children and adolescents in the Kingdom of Eswatini

The Kingdom of Eswatini, a low-middle-income country of 1.15 million, has embodied peace, stability and resilience in a world of flux and uncertainty. In its quest for sustainable, inclusive development, the Kingdom is at a critical juncture with respect to the needs and realities of one of its most precious resources: its children and adolescents. This report provides findings and recommendations from a UNICEF-commissioned analysis of the situation related to children and adolescents. Different profiles of children and adolescents, in addition to other stakeholders, were consulted as part of the process. THE NATIONAL CONTEXT: The country’s 2017 Population and Housing Census paints a picture of a very young and overwhelmingly rural population. Forty-three percent of residents are between the ages of 0 and 17 years, and adolescents (10-19 years) account for one-fourth of the total population. Therefore, developing human capital and investing in all aspects of child and adolescent well-being are central to Eswatini’s ability to reap a demographic dividend (i.e., accelerated economic development as a result of changes in population age structure, coupled with declines in mortality and fertility). The country is, however, contending with major challenges such as economic/fiscal crises, climate-induced hazards (e.g., the 2015/16 drought) and disease outbreaks or epidemics (including but not limited to HIV, which has a national adult prevalence of 27.3 per cent in 2018). Micro-level shocks to families (resulting from factors such as parental death, illness, loss of livelihoods and other factors) is highly salient in Eswatini as it underpins a range of vulnerabilities affecting children (e.g., inadequate parental care, multidimensional poverty).