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UNICEF External Situation Report Swaziland - 14 Aug 2007

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Situation Update

The Water Crisis Committee (WCC) worked to expedite the response to the acute water shortage. The WCC drilled six boreholes and rehabilitated one water infrastructure at Lavumisa, an area in the Lubombo region with serious water shortages. During the upcoming week, the WCC team will focus on the Matsanjeni constituency in the Lubombo region. The team will determine drill sites for new boreholes and will identify any water infrastructure that requires rehabilitation.

After nearly two years of stable fares, the Swazi Government approved bus fare increases that will take effect from next week. The increases range from 25 per cent to nearly 50 per cent, depending on the route. Fares for local routes rose 50 cents, while the bus fare from the capital, Mbabane to the nation's main business centre, Manzini, went up by 40 per cent. Routes from Mbabane to the rural areas outside the Manzini and southern Hhohho regions saw the greatest fare increases.

The bus fare increase comes on the heels of a hike in the price of bread. Bread prices rose 40 cents last week, to 4.55 Emalengeni (local currency equivalent to the Rand) for brown bread and 4.80 Emalengeni for white bread. Bread is fast becoming a staple food for families since maize is increasingly unavailable or too expensive due to the drought. The increased bread prices will likely impact those most vulnerable in Swaziland.


Health and Nutrition/WASH

A total of 32 health facility-based sentinel surveillance sites have been established. With support from UNICEF, the Swaziland National Nutrition Council (SNNC) supervised eight newly-established sites to submit data on the nutritional status of children, bringing the number of sites reporting nationwide to 14. Data from these 14 sites indicate that moderate under-nutrition is still prevalent in the country. Of the 541 children below the age of five years who were screened with Mid-Upper Arm Circumference (MUAC), 55 children or 10 per cent were in the yellow MUAC band, indicating moderate wasting. Eight children or one per cent fell in the red MUAC band, indicating severe wasting. These results are within the acceptable limits of sphere standards in humanitarian disaster response.

A total of 1,023 children under five were screened for weight for age; 965 children or 94 per cent had normal weight, while 44 children or four per cent were under weight.

Monitoring of children in community-based sentinel sites - Neighbourhood Care Points (NCPs) - was rolled out this week. Eight of 27 NCPs earmarked for sentinel monitoring were visited; 151 children in total were assessed and none were in the red band of MUAC.

An assessment of four NCPs in Sigwe, a community severely affected by the drought, revealed that children travel approximately one and a half hours each day to get water from tankers.

Four hospitals - Good Shepherd, Mbabane, Hlathikhulu and RFM - were supplied with their first consignment of therapeutic food (F100, ReSoMal and F75) and equipment for the management of severely malnourished children. Data from these sites will be reported on a monthly basis. Health worker training on management of severe acute malnutrition will begin this week at Mbabane Government hospital.

Child Protection

UNICEF donated emergency survival kits for 90 families impacted by the forest fires in Piggs Peak. UNICEF handed the kits over to Red Cross. The kit is comprised of eating utensils, blankets, water containers and candles. Red Cross will distribute the kits to the neediest families in the area. The hand-over event was attended by the Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Regional Development and Youth Affairs and Red Cross officials.

A UNICEF team toured another region (Manzini) that was affected by the forest fires and windstorms. Fifteen households and four schools were moderately affected by the disaster. In one school the windstorm blew the roof off of a block of three classes, leaving 108 pupils without a safe place to learn. Furniture and books in the classes were also destroyed. Students are now using the teachers' residences as temporarily classrooms. The teachers are staying at a nearby homestead pending the repair of the classrooms. The school has requested assistance from the National Disaster Task Force and Ministry of Education. Other schools damaged in the wind storm took the initiative of repairing their own schools. Red Cross provided blankets to families affected in this area as no major losses were incurred at household level.

Inter-agency Collaboration and Key Partners

In addition to drilling six boreholes and refurbishing one water infrastructure in Lavumisa, the WCC met with UNICEF's new emergency WASH officer to finalize further plans for the drought response.

UNICEF and World Food Program (WFP) are supporting the SNNC in mapping of nutrition sentinel surveillance sites, Maternal and Child Health Clinics (MCH) and therapeutic feeding centres (TFC). The map will be used by health workers to refer malnourished patients for care and follow up after discharge from TFCs.

The UN Communications Group is working closely with SNNC to develop communication materials aimed at educating the public on proper nutrition.