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MBABANE – More than 19 000 people in the country are staring the dark reality of famine and in need of urgent food support.

These were the findings of the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC), which was issued in July 1, 2017.
The IPC states that the most affected are the Lubombo and Shiselweni Regions, with the former having about 9 850 people in need of urgent food assistance. About 33 per cent of households in that region did not harvest, and this has resulted in the availability of just 36 per cent of food that would last less than two months. In the two regions, about one household in four would not meet dietary energy requirements at all times from July to September 2017.
No household in the Hhohho Region is in need of immediate food assistance and this is unique to this region, as all others have a significant number of people in need of it.

The report reads that the most affected population groups are the very poor and poor who have lost their crops and have seen their income reduced due to chronic illnesses or death of breadwinners, and loss of employment. The reduced production in the sugar cane industry has contributed to job losses. Some of the affected are seasonal workers. Ministry of Agriculture Principal Secretary Bongani Masuku concurred with the report as he stated that the drought that hit the country in the 2015/2016 period left many seasonal workers without employment, as there was a period where there was nothing in some sugar cane fields. Masuku added that the recovery was not as rapid as expected but they were still optimistic about the whole situation. Although job losses were rife during the drought season, there were none reported in Masuku’s ministry, specifically due to the rough weather conditions. He said there were no job losses although a number of cattle had died.

“We know that in other countries, many people lost their jobs during the drought but not in Swaziland,” said Masuku referring to civil servants.
A shocking revelation was made in the Shiselweni Region, where it was found that 150 000 people have less than three months of food stock available. This is despite the region having about 80 per cent of land suitable for growing crops. The report states that about 50 000 people in that region rely on less expensive food, while about 40 000 and 32 000 relied on borrowed food or were helped by relatives.

“The poor and very poor groups account for 62 per cent of the population of the region,” reads the report.
The report states that there are about 200 000 people in that region.

A looming food crisis seems to be closing in on other residents of the Shiselweni Region as less than 30 000 have food that will last four to 12 months. According to the report, the national food balance sheet reflects that the country will have a shortfall of 129 500 tonnes which will be covered through imports and food aid. However, there is a glimmer of hope as the report states that the region’s market structure, including food supply chain and value chain, is well functioning and will help in ensuring food availability.

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