Swaziland declares humanitarian disaster
February 24 2004 1:00 AM ET
The combination of an ongoing drought and an HIV prevalence rate of nearly 40% led Swaziland prime minister Themba Dlamini to declare a humanitarian disaster in the southern African nation last week. "AIDS, drought, and land degradation--all these have reinforced negative effects that have created a web of extreme vulnerability reinforced by the collapse of family structures," Dlamini said, appealing to the international community for increased aid. The nation's HIV prevalence rate climbed from 34.2% in January 2002 to 38.6% just one year later, according to Swazi officials. The country has the second-highest HIV prevalence rate in the world, behind only Botswana, where more than 40% of the nation's residents are infected with the virus. Swaziland's epidemic is being fueled by the practice of polygamy and reluctance by Swazi men to use condoms, international health officials say.