- Anglican Church leaders are heading to Swaziland to study how they better can help the largely abandoned Swazi people managing their current food and AIDS crisis. As international donors shy away from the small authoritarian Kingdom, the Church seeks new ways of reaching the victimised population.
The Archbishop of Cape Town and head of the Anglican Church in Southern Africa, Njongonkulu Ndungane, is to lead a global delegation to Swaziland later this week, according to a statement by Mr Ndungane. The visit marks the Church's "deep concern for troubled Swaziland," the statement said.
Swaziland is one of the six countries within the Church of the Province of Southern Africa. This visit comes in response to appeals from Bishop Meshack Mabuza, Anglican Bishop of Swaziland, and members of his region, for a wider involvement of the global Anglican Church in the troubled country.
- This pastoral visit will enable the delegation to familiarise itself with the situation and to show solidarity and support, through prayer and discussion, with the leaders and people of Swaziland, Archbishop Ndungane says.
The Cape Town Archbishop is to be accompanied by bishops from Mozambique, South Africa, the US, Scotland and England in addition to the Director of Communications for the worldwide Anglican Communion.
- The situation in Swaziland seems to have reached a crisis, says Archbishop Ndungane. "Poverty is rife, with a reported 65 percent of the Swazi population living below the poverty line and the HIV and AIDS statistics are reported as the highest in the world."
Swazi authorities do not have the capacity to meet the crisis without external help. "The hospitals are only able to provide 2,000 hospital beds at any given time which means that about 18,000 people die in their homes," Mr Ndungane explains.
A UNICEF study conducted in 2002 had showed that there were 5,500 orphan-headed homes in Swaziland, with the eldest being 11 years old. "The Anglican diocesan AIDS programme lays emphasis on home care but obviously the need is far greater than we can meet," the Archbishop says.
The Anglican Church delegation intends meeting church and civic leaders, the Head of State, the Prime Minister and various ambassadors to Swaziland to discuss the socio-economic situation and the ongoing constitutional development of that country. A service is to be held in the Anglican Cathedral Church of All Saints in the Swazi capital, Mbabane, on Saturday morning.
Although the food deficit and the crisis is deeper in countries like Lesotho, Swaziland has experienced much larger difficulties in obtaining international aid to gap the deficit. Swazi authorities, in particular King Mswati III, have been in the international limelight for extravagant private spending and the oppression of dissident voices.
Programmes headed by church societies and humanitarian organisations have therefore gained importance in Swaziland. Swazi leaders are currently also trying to reengage other donors by introducing new economic programmes with a more social profile. In face of the current deep crisis, progress is however too slow.
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