In a country where AIDS has left countless children orphans and where life expectancy is only 47, Nosipho and her grandchildren might appear to have the cards stacked against them. But with a bit of food assistance, the determined 50-year-old, diagnosed with HIV five years ago, is steering the children towards a brighter future.
By Laura Reynolds and Timothy Sandoe
MBABANE -- Nosipho Mbhamali, age 50, is the sole provider for her three young grandchildren. Residing in the northern Hhohho region of Swaziland, Nosipho was diagnosed with HIV in 2006 and is also suffering from tuberculosis. Her condition is grave and she struggles to walk. She needs to use crutches to get to the local health centre. “I used to have a real problem providing food for my children,” Nosipho says, explaining that her health problems, coupled with the lack of rain, mades growing crops difficult. In addition to that, she was unable to rely on her relatives.
That was until she started receiving food rations from a joint programme offered by WFP and the Swaziland Government . Nosipho was admitted to the Food by Prescription program after doctors at the local health clinic found her to be seriously malnourished. She now receives individual food rations for herself and a food parcel for her three grandchildren (ages 6-12 years). “The food helps my children,” she said with a smile. “With the help that WFP provides, I know that I can support my grandchildren.”
Sadly, Nosipho’s story is not unique to Swaziland. With the world’s highest HIV prevalence rate and highest incidence of tuberculosis, few people are unaffected by the tragedy surrounding these diseases. Life expectancy is only 47 years and it’s currently estimated that there are over 200,000 orphans and vulnerable children in the country.
WFP, in partnership with the Swaziland National Nutrition Council, recently introduced the Food by Prescription program to respond to this situation. The initiative aims to improve the nutrition of the many malnourished people on antiretroviral therapy. It also supports tuberculosis patients and women who are getting antenatal care .
The program provides food not only for the affected individuals, but for their families as well, so that PLHIV and others can be productive members of their community. Successfully running in 11 health facilities, the Food by Prescription program is benefitting over 6,500 people in Swaziland.
The programme essentially gives these people the opportunity to live healthy lives and provide for their families. “I dream that one day my grandchildren will grow up to be happy, successful adults,” Nosipho said.