eSwatini soldiers assist HIV+ poverty stricken residents with food



BY : ZWELI MARTIN DLAMINI

LAMGABHI: Life is literally a struggle for HIV+ poverty stricken residents of this tiny Lamgabhi Etiyeni chiefdom in Swaziland now eSwatini who are forced to take Anti-Retroviral (ARVs) treatment in empty stomachs.

As a result soldiers within the Mdzimba Barracks clinic found themselves assisting the residents who are on HIV treatment with food. A resident who spoke to this publication said even though this was not allowed, some soldiers, out of a good heart and understanding of the situation would make sure patients get something to eat when they arrive to collect their medication at the barracks clinic.

“It’s not allowed but some soldiers understand the situation and out of a good heart, they give you something to eat for the day.” said the resident Speaking to this Swaziland News, Khanya Mabuza, the Director of the National Emergency Response Council on HIV/AIDS (NERCHA) said as government financial challenges worsen, the situation was fast becoming extremely difficult for HIV+ patients.

“Before, the World Food Programme (WFP) was funding a programme where patients who were very weak would be given food first before taking medication in the various hospitals but now the funding is becoming scarce. It’s really bad. The truth is, ARV like any other drugs need food and would cause problems in the stomach in the event you take them without a meal” he said. The NERCHA thanked the soldiers for assisting these patients adding that the situation now in the country suggests that we should assist one another. “ What the army is doing to these patients is commendable, the situation is really bad for people who are on HIV treatment and assisting one another with something to eat at this moment is encouraged” he said

The United Nations’ World Food Programme (WFP) reported in 2016 that about 300 000 of the over 1million were urgently in need of food aid after the 2015 drought that further affected the economy. “Swaziland is one of the hard hit countries in the widespread drought in the Southern Africa. Over 300,000 people (25% of the population) inclusive of 135, 144 children are facing acute food shortage due to poor rainfall in the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 cropping season which is attributed ENino Phenomenon” read the report from WFP.

Tengetile Khumalo, the newly appointed Public Relations Officer (PRO) for the Umbutfo eSwatini Defense Force (UEDF) promised to return the call as she was busy in a meeting. “I am currently busy in a meeting Nkhosi and will call you back” she said.