Twenty thousand people are dying of AIDS-related illnesses every year in Swaziland. National life expectancy is projected to drop to just 27 from 62 by 2010. The most productive section of society (around 30 years old) has effectively been wiped out, wrecking the country, which has already been crippled by drought and economic disintegration.
An Anglican church representative gave those grim statistics from the single-diocese country recently in Nairobi during an interview. Veronica Maziya spoke of the devastation, “grief and agony” that HIV/AIDS was causing in Swaziland, how the church was attempting to relieve its suffering, and called for prayer across the worldwide Anglican Communion to support church efforts and bring the crisis to an end.
“The situation is a disaster for Swaziland,” said Ms. Maziya. “HIV has destroyed our youth and the future. We have been left with an orphaned country. We face a tragedy beyond comprehension.”
Of the country’s population of a million, 500,000 are under 15 years old. Of the remaining half million, 200,000 are infected. The chance of a 15-year-old reaching the age of 35 is only 10 per cent. Orphans, with an average age of 11, now head more than 5,500 homes. “The situation is amplified by the fact that there are only 2,000 hospital beds in the country,” said Ms. Maziya. “And as there is no social welfare system, very few can afford treatment.” More than 50 per cent of Swaziland lives below the poverty line, currently set at $8.50 per month.
She said that the Church of Swaziland – a diocese of the Church of the Province of Southern Africa – had a program to combat HIV/AIDS but that it desperately needed support.
In recent years the church’s work has been challenged by continuing droughts (which have affected a large part of southern Africa) and as the disease claims more lives people have become poorer.