In Dialogue with Eswatini, Committee on Rights of Child welcomes legislative progress and asks about child Health

OHCHR

The Committee on the Rights of the Child today considered the combined second to fourth periodic reports of Eswatini on the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, with Committee Experts welcoming legislative progress, and asking about child health related issues, such as age determination and nutrition, also raising the issue of corporal punishment. 

Presenting the report, Themba Nhlanganiso Masuku, Deputy Prime Minister of  Eswatini and head of the delegation, noted that children made up almost half the country’s population, adding that their education, social protection and health was a priority for the Government.  However, challenges to the welfare of Eswatini’s children included the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic which had closed schools for over a year, as well as global warming and climate change.  Rainfall was becoming unpredictable and unreliable, affecting subsistence agriculture, which negatively affected food security and child nutrition. 

In the dialogue, Committee experts focused on issues related to the legislative progress that Eswatini had already made through amending its current laws and relevant regulations.  The Committee asked the delegation to elaborate on issues related to the health system in the country, especially in the light of mental health, children with disabilities, and Eswatini’s process for issuing birth certificates.  The Committee Experts also enquired on how different financial aid was distributed timely and efficiently in Eswatini.  They also asked about the situation of Swazi prisons and refugee camps. 

The delegation, in its responses, explained the many grants and aids available to children in Eswatini, including for instance electricity aid and water aid for children in rural areas.  Food was distributed to children in need, as well as to their caregivers if they did not have sufficient resources or access to nutrition.  When it came to age determination for children without birth certificates, the law made provisions around determining their estimated age, but neighbours from the village the child was from would assist the professionals in determining the age of the child, the delegation explained. 

The delegation of Eswatini was comprised of representatives of the Eswatini Government, including its Deputy Prime Minister, Principal Secretary, Acting Director, Principal Crown Counsel, Coordinator, Senior Planner, and Protocol Officer. 

The Committee will issue the concluding observations and recommendations on its review of Eswatini at the end of its 88th session, which concludes on 24 September.  Those, and other documents relating to the Committee’s work, including reports submitted by States parties, will be available on the session’s webpage.  The webcast of the Committee’s public meetings can be accessed at https://webtv.un.org/.

The Committee will next meet in public at 1:00 p.m. on Thursday, September 16 to hold the first of two segments of an online Day of General Discussion. 

Report

The Committee had before it the combined second to fourth reports of Eswatini (CRC/C/SWZ/2-4)

Presentation of the Report

THEMBA NHLANGANISO MASUKU, Deputy Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Eswatini and head of the delegation, presented the report saying that his country invested considerable resources and efforts to safeguard and promote children’s rights.  Children made up almost half of Eswatini’s population.  Eswatini prioritized education, social protection, and health, as the foundation for human development.  Some of the country’s key programmes included free primary education, school feeding, maternal and child health services, grants for persons with disabilities, and grants for orphaned and vulnerable children.  Free primary education had improved the total primary school enrolment to 98% and maternal mortality had also been reduced.  Neonatal mortality had been reduced, and adolescent pregnancy had also been reduced.  The country also made strides in eliminating maternal HIV transmission.

Eswatini’s constitution and other legislation aimed to strengthen children’s rights and protect them from social norms which threatened their future, freedom, and their very survival, he said.  One such piece of legislation was the Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Act of 2018.  To show its commitment to eradicating sexual violence, a series of programs aimed to facilitate its effective implementation.  Regulations for a 2012 Children’s Protection and Welfare Act had been developed and were expected to be passed soon.  Noting that his country was well-known for its “beautiful cultures”, he underscored that the value of culture was found in its ability to deliver social and economic benefits that protected children.  Eswatini’s children were protected by the law to choose which cultural practices they wished to participate in.    

Current global challenges such as economic recession, global warming, and the COVID-19 pandemic had caused developing countries to find themselves in a dilemma of choosing between spending on current issues or investing in the future.  Another dilemma was prioritising between survival and human development needs.  Global warming and climate change was negatively affecting children’s rights, with Eswatini experiencing unprecedented weather changes including cyclones, drought and temperatures reaching 44 degrees Celsius.  Rainfall had become unpredictable and unreliable, affecting subsistence agriculture and thus food security and child nutrition. 

The COVID-19 pandemic had interrupted school for children, with some grades having to close for over a year.  Most children could not afford mobile phones and data to participate in online classes.  Programmes preventing teenage pregnancy had also been adversely affected by school closures, with 1760 teenage pregnancies observed in the country during the pandemic period.  Children had also suffered due to civil unrest earlier in 2021.  Eswatini was finalising a national Plan of Action for Children to cover 2022-2026 in order to ensure a systematic way to the fulfilment of the rights of children in line with the Convention.  Eswatini was fully committed to a society where the rights and dignity of children was fully respected and promoted in line with the Convention. 

Questions by the Committee Experts

BENYAM DAWIT MEZMUR, Committee Member and Country Coordinator for Eswatini, noted that Eswatini had made progress on legislation, namely through its Child Protection and Welfare Act.  What were the next steps on allocating resources for effective implementation?  Was there progress in improving the distribution of development aid?  

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