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Returning to Swaziland

This weekend was exceptionally cold in London so leaving my coat behind and packing to go to the Southern African summer seemed very difficult. Going by the well-practised method of packing my things then halving what I have packed and halving it once again I managed to come away with only two jumpers – both of which will remain in my bag – but still, I was quite proud. As I made my way to the Heathrow Express run-hop-walking because I was late, it was sheeting rain, almost dark at 3pm and cold as ice. It felt good to be returning to the blue skies of Africa.

I’m in Swaziland for two weeks with our smallest Save the Children Alliance member: Save the Children Swaziland. I have three objectives for this support trip: a review and update of the Cash Transfer Programme which finished in June 2008 and technical support to two further proposals. Over the next two weeks I will work with the team to facilitate two workshops with community relief committees and will have a series of meetings with UNICEF and the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare on developing a social protection system for child headed households.

Perhaps the best known fact about Swaziland is that the King has 16 wives and his father, when he died, is said to have had 140 official wives and over 1,000 grandchildren! Possibly despite this but certainly not because of this, Swaziland is a beautiful country. It is one of two ‘true’ Kingdoms in the world, has a total population of approximately 1,200,000 people, breathtaking mountains and waterfalls, a rich and proud culture and stunning wildlife. Unfortunately, it also has the highest HIV & AIDS prevalence and the greatest percentage of orphans in the world which together with consistently poor harvests, limited labour opportunities and weak health infrastructure combine to create an annual deterioration in the food security situation.

I spent nine months with Save the Children in Swaziland last year managing the emergency drought response programme (not in Switzerland as a surprising number of my friends had believed) so in many ways I felt like I was coming home today. It is great to see my colleagues again and having worked so closely with the communities here, especially with our child headed households, I am determined to achieve as much as possible from my visit. But….as with all of the work we do, you never know what is around the corner! Watch this space..

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