Mbabane is Eswatini’s capital city and has a population of approximately 100,000. Tourism and the sugar industry form the basis of the local economy, and there are tin and iron mines nearby. However, the economy has declined and many people hardly get by. Urban development has been very much unplanned and the majority of people live in informal settlements with poor infrastructure. Without proper sanitation, children are often at risk of contracting water-borne diseases. Furthermore, HIV/AIDS is particularly widespread in the city. Many children lose their parents to the virus and have to make a living somehow instead of going to school.
Since 1989, SOS Children’s Villages has been supporting children, young people and families and advocating for their rights in Mbabane.
HIV/AIDS is a challenge all over Eswatini, but it severely affects the local population in Mbabane as the virus is particularly common in urban areas. As many as 120,000 children have lost the care of their parents, the majority due to HIV/AIDS. Often the oldest sibling is then left in charge of the family. Such child-headed households are in a particularly vulnerable position: they often face a lack of food and limited opportunities for income generation. Families affected by HIV/AIDS also face stigma, which can have a detrimental psychological impact on children in particular.
Urban development in Mbabane has been very much unplanned from the beginning, with the majority of people living in informal settlements. Efforts to upgrade and integrate these areas have yielded some first results, but the informal settlements are also the areas that experience the highest population growth. This means that thousands of families continue to live in sub-standard housing without proper sanitation. In fact, around 42% of people do not have access to running water. This puts children at particular risk, as water and sanitation-related diseases are one of the leading causes of death for children under five years of age.