First person: Surviving abuse to help Eswatini’s neglected children
Siphiwe Nxumalo, a World Food Programme (WFP) volunteer in Eswatini returned to her home country after completing her studies in neighbouring South Africa to help orphans and vulnerable children, struggling with poverty and neglect.
“In this community, many children don’t go to school or pre-school, because they don’t have food. Many others can’t afford the school fees. I can’t afford to send my own children to pre-school because my husband lost his job.
Some children suffer from a lack of parental love. We have seen neglected children left to find their own food, and at risk of sexual abuse from adults, who could potentially infect them with HIV.
This also happened to me: although my parents did not neglect me when I was a child, I faced abuse from adults including neighbours, my teachers, and the pastor at my church.
A safe place for kids
Before we created this Neighbourhood Care Point, this building was full of criminals. It was used for storing stolen goods, and the walls were covered in violent graffiti images.
We have created a safe space for kids. After we renovated the structure and opened the Care Point, crime in the area dropped. We are not professional teachers, but make use of online resources, such as classes on YouTube, and educational apps.
We want them to develop an entrepreneurial mindset from a very young age, showing them how to avoid widespread crime and create opportunities for themselves.
Hot meals, five days a week
Around 75 children come to this Care Point. These centres originally targeted children under the age of eight, but we welcome kids of all ages, including those whose parents cannot afford to send them to school, children with disabilities, children in urgent need of food.
With support from WFP, we are able to provide hot meals, five days a week. Every month, we are supplied with maize, beans, rice and oil. WFP also gave us farming tools, and we have created a vegetable garden, where we grow beans, spinach, lettuce, and other vegetables.
I hadn’t realized, until my friends pointed it out, that I always talk about kids, and how to help them. So, I am in the right place. I have found my calling.
Eswatini: an HIV hotspot
Eswatini has the highest HIV prevalence in the world: 27.9 per cent of the adult population lives with the virus; 71 per cent of children are orphaned or vulnerable; and one in four children have lost one or both parents due to HIV/ AIDS.
Orphans and vulnerable children are at increased risk of facing violence and abuse, HIV infection, malnutrition, and reduced access to education.
Neighbourhood Care Points can be found across the entire country. In 2023, WFP supports 800 of these care points with regular food deliveries and farming inputs.
Local volunteers ensure that children have access to much needed education and health care, recreational activities, and healthy meals.
Find out more about WFP in Eswatini here.