The Kingdom of Eswatini (formerly known as Swaziland) is a landlocked country, almost entirely contained within the northeast corner of South Africa. It faces numerous challenges including poverty, chronic food insecurity and HIV/AIDS.
With a population of 1.1 million people, 52 percent of whom are under the age of 20, Eswatini ranks 148 out of 188 in the 2016 Human Development Index. Despite its status as a lower middle-income country, 63 percent of people live below the national poverty line.
Eswatini has a high prevalence of HIV, affecting 26 percent of the population between the ages of 15 and 49. Life expectancy is 49 years, and 45 percent of children are orphaned or vulnerable. Chronic malnutrition is a major concern, though the situation is improving. Stunting currently affects 26 percent of children under 5 years, down from 31 percent in 2010. In the same age group, 2 percent suffer from wasting and 6 percent are underweight. The Cost of Hunger in Swaziland study found that 3 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is lost annually to child malnutrition.
Eswatini is ranked 128 out of 188 countries in the Gender Inequality Index. Factors contributing to increased vulnerability among women and girls include poor access to income-generating opportunities and social services; and gender-based violence.
About 77 percent (52 percent women and 48 percent men) of people rely on subsistence farming for their livelihoods. High dependence on rain-fed maize production, very low income levels of rural smallholders and high prices of food and agricultural inputs – such as seeds and fertilizers – together with high rates of HIV and AIDS among wage earners are the main drivers of food insecurity in the country.
Furthermore, effects from the El Niño-induced drought are still being felt. Preliminary results from a 2017 Annual Vulnerability Analysis Assessment state that about 159,000 people will be food insecure during the lean season, due to a combination of reduced income opportunities and poor agricultural performance leading to high reliance on purchases and relatively high food prices.