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Swaziland Newsletter 13 Theme: Children

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  • patrick mac manus
    SWAZILAND NEWSLETTER 13: CHILDREN IN SWAZILAND 1. New Court Eases Trauma for Child Victims. UN Integrated Regional Information Networks. Mbabane May 20, 2005.
    Message 1 of 1 , May 30, 2005
      1. New Court Eases Trauma for Child Victims. UN Integrated Regional
      Information Networks. Mbabane May 20, 2005.
      2. Child rights advocates highlight plight of under-fives. 20 April 2005.
      3. The "play pump" not only entertains, but draws water out of the ground,
      3 May 2005 (IRIN)
      4. New UNICEF head sees extent of orphans crisis. 25 May 2005. Source: IRIN
      5. In Swaziland, AIDS orphans grow gardens to survive. Agence
      France-Presse - February 1, 2005
      6. Swazi schools closed for weeding. BBC News 22 January 2004, Thulani
      Mthethwa, BBC, Swaziland

      1. New Court Eases Trauma for Child Victims. UN Integrated Regional
      Information Networks. Mbabane May 20, 2005.
      A new 'child-friendly' court is making it easier for underaged plaintiffs
      in rape and abuse cases to deal with previously frightening legal
      "Children need protection during the entire case, from the initial contact
      with doctors and police to the trial, where there is confrontation with
      the person the child is accusing. We have made an environment that is
      comfortable for children," said Superintendent Leckinah Magagula of the
      Royal Swaziland Police Department.
      Situated inside the High Court building overlooking the city centre of
      Mbabane, the capital, an auxiliary room beside Court Room B is painted
      like a brightly coloured playroom, allowing children to relax in the
      presence of attorneys and counsellors, who are referred to as
      During the trial a child plaintiff monitors proceedings through
      headphones, which allows children to avoid the traumatic experience of
      confronting their alleged abusers face to face.
      "The concept of a child-friendly court was necessary because it was so
      hard on children to have to meet, again, the person who traumatised them.
      Children who have been raped can now testify in private, with the
      assistance of trained intermediaries," said Nonhlanhla Dlamini, Director
      of the Swaziland Action Group Against Abuse (SWAGAA).
      As the trial proceeds, lawyers pose questions to the child plaintiff,
      which he or she listens to on headphones in the auxiliary room. The
      intermediary seated beside the child then repeats the attorney's question.
      If there is any distortion in the question, the lawyers in the courtroom
      can object, and the corrected question is repeated to the child by the
      The child's response is captured by a video camera and shown on monitors
      in the courtroom, where the judge, lawyers, the accused and the public
      gallery see it.
      SWAGAA, which offers counselling, medical referral and legal advice to
      abuse victims, has been campaigning for a child-friendly way of handling
      abuse cases in courts. Prior to the NGO's founding in 1994, the concept of
      sexual abuse was scarcely understood in Swaziland, and the very idea of
      spousal abuse was considered impossible in this patriarchal country.
      "When some of us were beginning to learn about issues pertaining to abuse
      of women and children, SWAGAA had already put up a magnitude of work to
      assist the voiceless. Without SWAGAA, it would never have dawned on some
      of us - the plight faced by children and women," said Attorney General
      Phesheya Dlamini.
      The attorney general's office, the NGO Save the Children and the Director
      of Public Prosecutions worked with SWAGAA to draft legislation
      establishing a children's court. Although the special court was publicly
      launched two years ago, it was not until late 2004 that enabling
      legislation was promulgated into law. Legislation allowing intermediaries
      to work in the children's court was only passed in March this year.
      "But the process of justice for child victims of abuse begins long before
      a court trail," said SWAGAA director Dlamini.
      In February, the British High Commissioner's office, the National
      Emergency Response Committee on HIV/AIDS, and the United Nation's
      Children's Fund, sponsored a SWAGAA seminar for the human links required
      in a successful court battle - police, prosecutors, doctors,
      intermediaries and judges all attended a packed programme.
      "They learned of the trauma an abused child goes through, both physically
      and emotionally. What was happening in the past is that the involved
      parties pointed fingers at each other when abuse cases failed: the
      prosecutors said the police didn't collect sufficient evidence; the police
      said doctors were not adequately documenting abuse cases," Dlamini
      Two prosecutions in the new children's court so far have resulted in
      convictions in both cases.
      2. Child rights advocates highlight plight of under-fives. 20 April 2005.
      MBABANE, 20 April (PLUSNEWS) - Child rights advocates have banded together
      in a bid to cope with ongoing concerns about the welfare of Southern
      Africa's children.
      At a recent meeting organised by the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) in
      Swaziland, delegates from Lesotho, Malawi and South Africa highlighted the
      need to bolster care programmes targeting children under five years.
      "In Swaziland we have begun a network of Neighbourhood Care Points that
      provide a structure for assisting orphans and vulnerable children. In
      Malawi they are using a comprehensive approach for all children, not just
      orphans," UNICEF country director, Alan Brody, told PlusNews.
      Participants from Malawi said some gains had been achieved through
      legislation protecting children, while funding from government and the
      private sector had resulted in an improvement in their nutritional status
      and school performance.
      Swaziland has a population of about 1 million, of which 70,000 are
      children under the age of 15 who have lost parents to AIDS.
      "Despite the breakdown of the family and the extended family [due to the
      AIDS pandemic], we are fortunate to still have community structures," said
      Derek Von Wissell, director of the National Emergency Response Committee
      on HIV/AIDS.
      Swaziland's first Neighbourhood Care Points were established in 2002-03 by
      community members.
      "UNICEF gave nothing more than a big cooking pot to them, a few toys and
      some soap. But as soon as the food appeared in those pots, scores of
      children appeared from impoverished homesteads ... sometimes with no
      parents or adults left [because of AIDS] to look over them," said Brody.
      Swazi authorities allocated R47 million (US $7.6 million) to the education
      of orphans and vulnerable children this year, while UN agencies are
      providing additional assistance through targeted programmes.
      "The mix of children at the care points has changed, and most of those we
      find there now are very young - aged between two and seven. Some of them
      arrive there already in a compromised state, because their infant care and
      nutrition has not been adequate," Brody added.
      Following discussions with their Malawian counterparts, Swazi officials
      and NGOs were expected to expand early childhood assistance to all
      under-five children.
      "We need to ensure good early childhood development outcomes for all the
      children in our communities, but with special emphasis on the most
      vulnerable," said Brody.
      Copyright (c) UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2005

      3. The "play pump" not only entertains, but draws water out of the ground
      MBABANE, 3 May 2005 (IRIN)
      - The children at Lubilini primary school in eastern Swaziland have never
      had a real playground. Now they get to spin a merry-go-round in the
      school's dirt courtyard, not only for exercise and entertainment, but to
      pump water out of the ground.
      The water is used to prepare their meals, for sanitation facilities and to
      irrigate the school vegetable garden.
      "We are a poor school - no swings for the children here, no jungle gyms,
      seesaws or exercise rings like the kind most children play with. Because
      of our water crisis, such things are not in our budget. But now the
      children have this merry-go-round, and both problems are solved," said
      teacher Sylvia Nkambule.
      Called 'play pumps' or 'play wheels', the bright red, yellow and green
      contraptions are topped by a blue drum where children can sit. The wheels
      are designed to be operated with minimum effort and can be turned by as
      few as three children. Connected to a borehole, the turning wheels draw
      water up into an overhead tank.
      Five 'play pumps' have been installed in schools, mainly in the
      drought-affected belt in southern and eastern Swaziland, as part of a
      pilot programme involving a consortium of private companies, government
      departments and the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF).
      UNICEF financed three play pumps at a cost of about US $30,000, while the
      Canada Fund provided the money for the others. MTN-Swaziland, the
      country's cellular telephone provider, will foot the monthly maintenance
      bill of about $106 per system, and has pledged to finance two more
      complete systems.
      Between 35 and 40 schools have been selected to receive play pumps under
      UNICEF's 'Education for All' programme.
      The water project coordinator for UNICEF in Swaziland, Mduduzi Dlamini,
      said, "Our surveys found that all schools had some kind of water, but in
      many cases it was not clean. There were also schools where water had to be
      transported across long distances, usually by teachers but sometimes by
      children. The children would lose hours of schooling to get water needed
      to cook the school's midday meal."
      Some schools also required students to bring water from home, and schools
      facing critical water shortages in drought-affected areas resorted to pit
      latrines instead of flush toilets. A lack of water to wash hands also
      presented hygiene problems.
      Alan Brody, UNICEF's country representative, said, "We are hoping to also
      install play pumps at Neighbourhood Care Points, where orphans and
      vulnerable children receive meals and social support."
      Swaziland is largely rural, with a scattered population, making it
      difficult for more people to have access to these 'play pumps'. "But if
      you put a play wheel in a central location, like a Neighbourhood Care
      Point, it is not only entertainment for the kids, but 500 to 1,000 people
      can draw water from the water tank," Brody explained.
      Dlamini also works with the UN's Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO),
      another partner in the effort to bring safe drinking water to impoverished
      schools. The FAO concentrates on school gardens, providing tools and
      agricultural expertise.
      "The FAO is using these school gardens to demonstrate dry cropping to
      Swazis by growing sweet potato and cassava, which use less water," Dlamini
      Safe drinking water is also part of the HIV/AIDS mitigation effort.
      "People with HIV are walking around with an infection already, and impure
      water can push them into a fatal AIDS-related illness," said Brody.
      The four sides of the system's elevated water tank are used as advertising
      space by the project sponsors, and can also be rented out to earn revenue
      for the school.


      4. New UNICEF head sees extent of orphans crisis. 25 May 2005. Source: IRIN
      MBABANE, 25 May (IRIN) - The new executive director of the United Nations
      Children's Fund (UNICEF), Ann Veneman, wrapped up her first official visit
      to Swaziland on Tuesday, having seen at first hand the scope of the tiny
      country's poverty and the magnitude of its AIDS orphan problem.
      "I've been on this job a little more than three weeks, and this is my
      first trip to the field. Because of Southern Africa's HIV situation, we
      are particularly concerned about the impact on children," Veneman told a
      press conference.
      Veneman visited UNICEF-sponsored community care points, where orphans,
      impoverished and otherwise vulnerable children who are not attending
      school receive meals provided by the World Food Programme and socialise
      with other children.
      "The community care centre is a new and unique concept in Swaziland. These
      centres provide a little education and training, and particularly meals
      and needed opportunities for children that really have nowhere to go,"
      remarked Veneman.
      She said she was particularly impressed by the dedication of the
      volunteers, who put in long hours at the care points.
      "I was very struck by the severity of the situation here in Swaziland, but
      also by the innovative and supportive kinds of solutions that find
      communities coming together to address these problems," she said.
      Swaziland, with a population of just over one million, has the world's
      highest HIV prevalence rate at more than 42 percent of pregnant women.
      UNICEF estimated that 35,000 children were orphaned by AIDS in 2001.
      The emotional highlight of the tour was a visit to a child-headed
      household at the Ndlovu family's small farm in the central Manzini region,
      where a 10-year-old boy was caring for his invalid grandmother and
      great-grandmother, while his own mother lay bedridden with what was likely
      an AIDS-related illness.
      "This little boy is left to do so much for the grandmother and
      great-grandmother - you see these type of things all over," Veneman said.
      "I go back [to headquarters] with a clearer understanding of the
      circumstances in Swaziland, the programmes that are being implemented and
      how donor funds are being utilised," she told IRIN.
      At a meeting with government officials and heads of local child welfare
      NGOs, Veneman stressed the need to build capacity and develop coordinated
      strategies to tackle the issue of orphans and vulnerable children.


      5. In Swaziland, AIDS orphans grow gardens to survive. Agence
      France-Presse - February 1, 2005
      BHUNYA, Swaziland, Feb 1 (AFP) - Tucked in the valleys of Swaziland,
      vegetable gardens are growing, tended by some of the tens of thousands of
      AIDS orphans struggling to survive in this poor southern African kingdom.
      Under a blazing sun in this region outside the capital Mbabane, Bonkhe
      drags a watering can to his plots of cabbage, carrots and green peas and
      carefully showers the plants before walking back up the steep path to the
      water wells.
      "I am happy because I grow my own food," says the shy six-year-old, one of
      71 orphans that have been taken in by families of Kaluhleko, a cluster of
      huts nestled in the mountains of Bhunya.
      The local community, assisted by the UN children's agency UNICEF and
      Swaziland's children's rights committee, help the orphans grow vegetables
      to supplement the rations of corn and soya that they receive from the
      World Food Programme.
      More than 65 percent of Swaziland's 1.2 million inhabitants live on less
      than one dollar a day and some 200,000 people depend on food hand-outs to
      The plight of Swaziland's orphans stands in stark contrast to that of King
      Mswati III, the 36-year-old ruler with a reputation for overspending who
      has 11 wives and recently purchased a 500,000-dollar (390,000-euro) luxury
      The supervisor of such 85 aid projects in the region, Thoby Dlamini, does
      not hide her disapproval of the king who is "enjoying" himself when his
      subjects suffer in extreme poverty.
      "Because really, they are suffering," she says.
      For the children, most of whom have lost their parents to AIDS or
      opportunistic diseases such as tuberculosis, the gardens provide a source
      of healthy food, "without fertilizer or pesticides", she says.
      Close to 40 percent of adults are living with HIV and AIDS in Swaziland,
      the world's highest infection rate, according to UNICEF officials who
      estimate the number of AIDS orphans at 69,000.
      AIDS has taken a particularly heavy toll in the countryside, compounding
      the food shortages caused by several years of drought in Africa's last
      absolute monarchy.
      "There are more and more abandoned fields," says Jabu Dlamini of
      Swaziland's action committee for children's rights. "We know it's AIDS,
      but because of the shame, nobody tells."
      UN special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, Stephen Lewis, last year
      criticised the monarchy, saying it was "too slow to recognize the threat"
      from the disease and voiced disapproval over the fact that AIDS orphans
      were not going to school.
      Makeshift classrooms in Swaziland's villages have sprung up to provide
      some schooling to the orphans as many cannot afford school fees or are
      afraid to be stigmatized.

      6. Swazi schools closed for weeding. BBC News 22 January 2004, Thulani
      Mthethwa, BBC, Swaziland
      Swaziland's schoolboys are coming to the end of a fortnight spent weeding
      the king's fields, which led to the postponement of the new school term.
      Schools were supposed to reopen on Tuesday but King Mswati ordered that
      they stay closed for an extra week.
      The weeding of the 10 vast royal fields is due to come to an end on
      Friday, before the king makes a public speech.
      Some 30,000 children were affected by the order but not the king's
      children who are in private schools.
      Some parents complained about the short notice of the royal order, which
      was issued by the king the day before schools were supposed to reopen.
      Ellen Mavuso of Pigg's Peak, in northern Swaziland, complained that she
      had already taken her two daughters to school in the south of Swaziland,
      about 120 kilometres from home, only to be told of the order.
      She wondered how the weeding of royal fields was related to the opening of
      King Mswati III is Africa's last absolute monarch.
      Earlier this month, he asked the government of the drought-hit country for
      $15m to build new palaces for his 11 wives.

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