Bible Society Helps Swaziland’s Vulnerable

Churches and Christian organizations in Swaziland have been focusing much of their attention on the southern African nation’s most vulnerable, according to a world fellowship of national Bible societies.

The Bible Society in Swaziland, which has undertaken a range of HIV/AIDS awareness initiatives over the last few years, is one of several agencies participating in a collaborative venture that brings together the government, non-governmental organizations and Christian organizations to help some of Swaziland’s most vulnerable citizens.

In recent years, the small, land-locked African country with a population of less than two million people has come to international attention for having the highest rate of HIV/AIDS infection in the world.

“Even without the scourge of HIV/AIDS life is hard for the vast majority of Swaziland’s people,” the Bible Society reported.

According to the agency, more than 80 percent of the population makes a living from subsistence agriculture, which has in turn led to overgrazing and soil depletion. With a climate characterized by drought interspersed with occasional flooding, many people rely partly on emergency food aid, the Bible Society reported.

The remote Khuphuka and Hlane regions in Swaziland’s lowlands have been particularly badly affected by drought and the resulting food shortages have placed an additional burden on the shoulders of HIV/AIDS orphans and grandparents who have had to take on the responsibility of heading decimated families.

“With almost 40 percent of adults infected with HIV/AIDS, it is children and the elderly who are being left to head families and find some means of surviving,” the Bible Society reported. According to the CIA World Factbook, the median age in Swaziland is 18.

Currently, the Bible Society in Swaziland is supporting church-based agency CARE Nakekela in running six care centers in the remote Khuphuka and Hlane areas for children who have become vulnerable as a result of losing their parents to HIV/AIDS.

The neighborhood “care points,” run by volunteers of all ages and backgrounds, provide children with meals as well as physical care. In addition, these points have come to serve as a place of refuge and protection, especially for the many children whose families cannot afford to send them to school.

As part of its support, the Bible Society is providing materials – including New Reader Portions, Selections, Bible Comics, and Children’s New Testaments – to volunteers who “are keen to go beyond simply meeting the children’s basic physical needs.”