When the Prime Minister and cabinet meets in Pigg’s Peak for their first business in 2016, one of the main items confronting them on the agenda will be WHEN to declare a national emergency to respond to the water crisis.
As dams dry out alarmingly around the country, a nation-wide catastrophe of health, famine and economic collapse looms in the horizon.
If it does not rain in the next few days, “taps will run dry in Mbabane any time in January,” warns the National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA).
“When this happens, water will be distributed in jerry cans around the city. This will push the city into sanitation crisis for the municipality of Mbabane,” says NDMA Chief Executive Russell Dlamini.
Without water, flush toilets will be unusable, and alternative sanitation facilities including portable toilets will have to be erected around the city and in the suburbs.
The water crisis also threatens the 2016 education year as schools will need strong sanitation facilities before they open to prevent disease outbreaks.
Swaziland is in a water crisis as below normal rainfall was received in 2015 resulting in major rivers drying up and limited runoff leading to reservoirs (dams) not being replenished.
Hawane dam – the main source of water for Mbabane and Ngwenya towns is running dry.
At the height of the drought crisis in December government re-launched the NDMA as a parastatal and appointed Russell Dlamini CEO. He has international experience working with World Vision, first in Swaziland then in Rwanda.
A drought that swept the country in Spring forced farmers away from their fields.
“For planning purposes, we are projecting zero maize harvest,” says Dlamini adding that national maize needs will have to be met through imports. “We are not expecting much harvest for 2016 considering the delay in the start of the planting season, the heat wave and the effect of the El Niño that is affecting the country and the region. “
By December 2015 the ministry of agriculture has reported over 25 000 cattle deaths. Multiplied by average E4000/animal the economic loss translates to over E100 million.
The government has resisted declaring a national disaster emergency that would enable NGOs to appeal for international assistance.