The health cost of dictatorship: Swaziland suffers
I’ve just read one of the most gruesome ‘success’ stories in the war against poverty. Swaziland is one of the poorest countries on the planet, with the highest HIV/AIDS rate in the world, and one of the most despotic rulers in the Commonwealth. And yet the number of poor people is declining: but not because of economic growth. The reason that there are fewer poor people in Swaziland now than a decade ago is simple. They’re dead.
Despite a more than healthy birth rate, the population of Swaziland actually seems to be falling, according to this report from IRIN, a service of the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The population actually seems to be falling, when the birth rate suggests it should have risen by a quarter of a million people over the last ten years – that’s the human cost of the dictatorship that runs Swaziland.
And this week we heard that, instead of allowing the Swazi people to control their own lives – and tackle the scourge of poverty and disease – the King is actually buying arms, imported through Mozambique (there are wikleaks reports that the UK government has recently refused to sell him arms). So soon there could be more dead people in Swaziland.
The TUC and other trade union movements are working with the Swazi trade union movement to push for democratic reforms – not just because they’re morally right anyway, but because they’re vital to keep Swazi’s poor alive.