Sihhoye care centre, a source of hope for hundreds of orphans in Swaziland

Published: 20 July 2006 0:00 CET

Tihlobotakhe Zulu, Food Security Officer, Swaziland Red Cross society

It is common that when life becomes tough, people tend to focus on their own survival. But for Raphael Mngometulu it is the time to demonstrate the spirit of humanity. His desire and dedication to save the lives of orphaned children became a reality with the establishment of a childcare center in Sihhoye, Northern Hhohho, in Swaziland.

The year 2004 was a bad year for Swaziland where thousands of people were hit by food insecurity due to erratic rains. As people were busy running around looking for food, Raphael realized that many people in his area were dying leaving children without anyone to care for them. It was indeed a huge challenge for orphans to survive.

“When I visited some of my neighbors, I found some were sick and had no food at all. When some of them died, their children were left alone with no one to look after them.” says Raphael.

The childcare center was established in 2004. Raphael’s wife would prepare thin porridge for sick people and orphans on a daily basis using their own resources.

“We started with fifteen orphans but the centre now has 110 children, 67 of whom do not go to school due to the lack of money to pay for school fees. However, we established an informal school for the children to have access to basic education,” he adds. The government of Swaziland is paying school fees for the other 43 children.

Although the children get informal education, the quality is not the same as in normal schools. A Swaziland Red Cross volunteer offers his teaching services to the centre just to make sure that the children can read and write but they do not have access to the recommended books and syllabus.

The recent food crisis in Swaziland was another problem for Raphael as he did not have any food for the children. The centre received food and maize seed through a Food Insecurity project which was funded by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. Although the project ended in April 2006, Raphael is sure that they will have enough food from their field, thanks to the Red Cross project that gave a ray of hope to these orphaned children.

“We are happy to see these children benefiting from such initiatives. The maize harvested will go a long way in assisting the children with food as it had become scarce,” says Raphael.

With the assistance of the Neighborhood Care Point (NCP) committee, the children planted the maize seed and they started harvesting their maize.

“I am pleased for the help that we got from the Red Cross during this difficult time, but I want to appeal to the international community to compliment the Red Cross efforts so that these children have access to reasonable education, clothing and food,” says Raphael, adding that some of the children out of the centre still need continuous food supplies while the authorities are looking for longer term solutions.