Siteki is a small town in eastern Eswatini in the mountainous Lubombo region, located around 30km from the border with Mozambique. It is predominantly a rural, agricultural region and has historically been one of the most marginalised and deprived areas in the country. Many people depend on farming, but recurring droughts put people’s livelihoods at risk. Poverty is widespread and many children fail to get enough food. Furthermore, over the years the impact of HIV/AIDS has deteriorated families’ capacities to care for their children. Many are left to fend for themselves instead of going to school.
Since 2001, SOS Children’s Villages has been supporting children, young people and families and advocating for their rights in Siteki.
People in the region of Lubombo are generally poor. Droughts often significantly decrease crop production and kill livestock, which has a severe impact on family income. Furthermore, around 35% of people are at risk of not having enough food. This is particularly dangerous for children, as their physical and mental development is affected. People in the region also tend to have less access to clean water and sanitation than people in other regions of Eswatini. Only around half of the population have improved toilet facilities, which puts people at greater risk of contracting preventable diseases.
Due to the HIV/AIDS pandemic, there are many children in the Lubombo region who are extremely vulnerable. These include children who have lost one or both parents and who live in a child-headed household. Children often have to fend for themselves and take care of their siblings at a very young age. In many cases, they drop out of school for this reason. In Lubombo, the average duration of primary school education is only four years. Secondary school attendance is even lower in the region, with only 3 out of 10 children attending secondary school. Their prospects of finding a job are low and youth unemployment is increasing.