US Buying $700,000 Worth of Condoms for African Nation

This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion
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Yet The Eswatini King Has an Estimated Net Worth of $200 Million

The Kingdom of Eswatini had been known as Swaziland until Ngwenyama Mswati III Dlamini, their oppressive King Mswati III, changed the name. It is this country the US just released a Grants Notice allocating $700,000 to assist with supply and distribution of condoms.

In 2018, King Mswati renamed the nation eSwatini, which means “land of the Swazis” partly to celebrate his 50th birthday, the nation’s 50 year anniversary of freedom from colonial rule, and to help end the confusion between the former name and Switzerland. According to a BBC article, at the time of the renaming, Mswati had been referring to his nation as eSwatini for years. A revision was made at some point after the renaming to change the capitalization of the e and s to Eswatini.

Swazi’s Live in Desperation; Their Monarch in Opulent Luxury

While the name change likely served as a feel good moment for Swazis, Eswatini has dire issues starting with the fact it is the last absolute monarchy in Africa. This has contributed to the Swazi’s extreme poverty, low life expectancy, and one of the world’s highest HIV rates. Poverty level is defined as a population who survives on $1.90 a day or less. The World Food Programme estimates “63 percent of people live below the national poverty line,” which puts Eswatini 12th worst in the world. For reference, Syria has the world’s worst poverty levels as 82.5% of their population lives below the poverty limit.

In 2018, 210,000 Swazis were living with HIV.

UNAIDS

The life expectancy in Eswatini has been on the rise since 2005 when The World Bank calculated it at 42.518 years. Their most recent data from 2017 shows a life expectancy at 58.319 years. To understand this on a global scale, the world rate for 2017 is 72.838 years. In terms of HIV incidence rates, The World Bank lists the 2018 world rate at 0.8%. Their 2018 data identifies 27.3% of the Eswatini population between 15-49 had been infected. This rate is down from a high of 28.2% in 2014. The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) reported in 2018, 210,000 Swazis were living with HIV. 

These devastating numbers show an absolute need for a variety of worldwide assistance. This includes condoms, which will assist with the continued drop of HIV rate and should contribute to higher life expectancy rates. Not only will the correct use of condoms during sex reduce HIV rates, but other sexually transmitted diseases also, both of which contributes to early death rates.

Does Eswatini really need the world’s help? 

While his people live in desperation, King Mswati III lives in absolute opulence. In 2014, The Guardian reported the King increased his household’s annual budget to $61 million dollars. At $167,123, his daily income is light years more than the $1.90 his people have. Alexis Carey wrote a 2019 article in which she detailed the King’s wealth and spending. Carey reported Mswati “splurged on up to 19 Rolls-Royces and dozens of BMWs, which were pictured being delivered from South Africa to the king’s opulent palace.” He also owns two private jets, one worth $13.2 million. Yet 63% of his people live on $1.90 or less every single day.

The Kingdom of Eswatini Ministry of Health (MOH) attributes their country’s HIV rate, one of the world’s largest to high risk behaviors such as “men who have sex with men, sex workers, their clients, and their partners.” The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and MOH recognize not enough condoms are available for those who can’t afford them. A valuable commodity, condom deliveries are a target for thieves. A solution to thwart these criminals while providing the increasing supply of condoms is a $700,000 US grant for additional condoms and to consolidate the nation’s condom supply. A Judicial Watch report found the US government already “pays for 90% of the condoms through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).” 

The Counter to the Condom Conundrum

The condoms are delivered and distributed by the Eswatini National Condom Programm led by the Kingdom of Eswatini Ministry of Health (MOH) under the Sexual and Reproductive Health Unit (SRHU). In the MOH’s “The National Condom Strategy 2018-2022” report, they recognize distribution of and training in the use of condoms are amongst the highest priorities to lower rates of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases (STD) along with pregnancy. 

One of the plans outlined in the MOH condom strategy report is to ensure supplies of condoms can be found “throughout the community” and in high traffic locations where condoms could be a sought out commodity such as hotels and bars. It also raises a concern current supplies of condoms can be readily acquired in cities, but rural communities often run out of their supply of condoms. A solution to this issue is the advent of “Community-based distribution agents (CBDAs).” Another source to distribute condoms according to the report will be “peer educators and outreach workers” since these people will be familiar with locals who might not trust a governmental group. 

The Detailed Monetary Needs

The MOH’s “The National Condom Strategy 2018-2022” report has a very detailed financial breakdown for implementation, which it lists at $1,043,000 for full implementation. The first section, Leadership, Coordination and Partnerships, accounts for $268,000. Supply and Commodity Security has an estimated cost of $81,000. Another $561,000 is designated for Demand, Access and Utilization. A total of $133,000 is earmarked for Programme Support. This does not include any funds for additional condoms, which is where the $700,000 new US grant comes into play.

What does this all mean? Possibly just that the US government through USAID is taking more control of our taxpayer funds going around the world. It is the healthy scepticism within me that will cause me to track which companies win the contract to see if any politicians are connected for possible paybacks. I will also be looking at any contributions coming to current and/or newly elected politicians from King Mswati for the same.

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Dr. Dave Baker

Dr. Dave Baker

Dr. Dave Baker is a publishing editor and writer for NRN. He is a follower of God, a disabled veteran, an English teacher at the high school to university levels, a school administrator, and a cancer survivor. "What I found at NRN is more than just a job, but a family. Not only do we care about the message, but also for each other."

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