SEATTLE — Swaziland is one of the last absolute monarchies in the world. As seen in monarchies throughout history, there is a largely uneven distribution of income throughout the country. According to the International Fund for Agricultural Development, approximately 63 percent of the country’s population was living below the poverty line as of June 2017. A number of development projects in Swaziland are beginning to effect change to improve the country’s health, sanitation and employment.
Dry Sanitation and Waste Management Projects
The Turku University of Applied Sciences (TUAS) in Turku, Finland has been involved in sanitation and hygiene outreach programs in Swaziland since 2007. By partnering with organizations like Green Living Movement Swaziland and the City Council of Mbabane, TUAS has organized education programs focused on improving sanitation and increasing hygiene competence. The education programs promoted sanitation as a human right and focused on youth, especially the inclusion of young girls, to create job opportunities in various fields, including waste management departments and the construction of sanitation systems. One of the major highlights was the construction of dry toilet technology, an initiative to reduce water use.
The Siphofaneni Bridge
Employing about 70 percent of the population, agriculture is Swaziland’s largest industry, with sugar being the largest export product. The Siphofaneni Bridge was constructed by the Aurecon Group to boost the sugar industry. It was designed to increase efficiency in transportation, reducing costs and creating more jobs to lower the unemployment rate. The bridge also provides opportunities for additional development projects in Swaziland and for the community of Siphofaneni. It was built over the Maputo River, creating an easier transportation route for citizens and a potential job market in road work and construction.
Swaziland Education for All
In 2000, in collaboration with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, the Swaziland Ministry of Education and Training created its Education for All movement. A review of the movement was performed in 2015, covering both successes in development and the intent to continue improving the program over time. The movement increased enrollment in primary education, focused on including girls and women in education and worked to improve the quality of training given to educators with a goal of improving learning in students. The ongoing goals of the movement include continuing to improve working conditions for educators, creating learning programs that prepare children for the current job market in Swaziland and focusing on disabled and disadvantaged children in education.
Health Communication Capacity Collaborative
Globally, Swaziland has the highest prevalence of HIV, with 31 percent of adults aged 18 to 49 afflicted by the illness. The Health Communication Capacity Collaborative (HC3) has been one of the major development projects in Swaziland since 2013 in an attempt to mitigate the HIV and AIDS epidemic. The HC3 created community-based education programs and included social figures like council members, religious leaders and teachers to provide them with the tools to support people living with HIV. Work has also been done to educate key populations—such as sex workers and men who have sex with men—and provide them with support groups and healthcare. With inclusivity as a driving point of this initiative, the HC3 also works with the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief’s partnership to lower the incidence of HIV in girls and women.
Human Resources for Health Strategic Plan
In October 2012, the Swaziland Ministry of Health created a Human Resources for Health (HRH) Strategic Plan to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of healthcare nationwide. With the ratio of healthcare staff—doctors, nurses, midwives and more—lower than recommended by the World Health Organization, Swaziland was facing an HRH crisis. As a result of the HIV and AIDS epidemic, as well as a high burden of other diseases, healthcare staff were overloaded with patients and started burning out. The goal of the HRH Strategic Plan was to increase the number of staff members and provide ongoing medical education. It also aimed to address nationwide access equality concerns and ensure that every community is able to use healthcare services.
Though the country has a long way to go before it becomes a middle-income country with widespread access to healthcare and sanitation, these development projects in Swaziland are just a few of many beginning to change the country’s infrastructure.
– Anna Sheps