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Salesians in Partnership to Provide Nutrition to Hundreds of Vulnerable Youth in Eswatini

Credit: Salesian Missions

Hundreds of vulnerable youth in Manzini city, Eswatini, have received nutritional support from members of the Religious Institute of the Salesians of Don Bosco (SBD) in a collaborative initiative.

The rice meals are provided through a partnership between the U.S. development arm of the SDB, Salesian Missions, and Rise Against Hunger, an international relief organization that provides food and life-saving aid to the world’s most vulnerable. 

Officials of the SDB-run Manzini Youth Care are in charge of distributing the food. 

In a Monday, November 29 report, SDB officials say the food was distributed through one of their vocational training centers, a primary school, two soup kitchens, two orphanages, and communities around Manzini. 

"The Salesian organization (Manzini Youth Centre) distributed meals to 720 beneficiaries. Salesians had hoped to reach 800 beneficiaries but due to challenges such as school closure during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns, trouble with transportation bringing food into the villages, and youth who had relocated, they fell short of their goal," the report indicates. 

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SDB members are quoted explaining that the food aid was essential especially at the height of COVID-19 because many people were unable to purchase meals after losing their jobs. 

"The unemployment rate is high and has become worse during the pandemic. People have lost their jobs while food prices have increased drastically," SDB members say in the report.

They add that high levels of poverty have negatively impacted on some dwellers of Manzini hence their dependence on the Rise Against Hunger meals for survival.

SDB members in Manzini further report in reference to the recipients of the rice-meals that the nutritional support has had "significant impact on their health." 

In the report, Mzwandile Sihlongonyane shares his experience saying, "Since I began receiving the meals, I am feeling lively because I believe the nutrients from the meals are contributing to that. It is important for me to receive Rise Against Hunger meals because they are a balanced diet and sometimes the only meal I have in a day."

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The 18-year-old Sihlongonyane who aspires to be a teacher adds, "Before I received Rise Against Hunger meals, I used to eat pap (porridge), spinach and okra. We usually ate once or twice with my family."  

For Cyprian Shabangu, a social worker at Manzini Youth Care, the food helps his organization "because while distributing the meals, he is able to communicate directly with the different stakeholders and beneficiaries themselves." 

“Ever since Manzini Youth Care started distributing Rise Against Hunger meals, we haven’t heard of any hunger-related illnesses from children in this community,” Shabangu has been quoted as saying.  

He adds that his favorite part of serving meals in this community is that when he delivers the food, he sees the lovely smiles of the beneficiaries and they show that they appreciate the support.

Manzini Youth Care was established in 1978 to respond to the rising number of street children in the Southern African country that was previously known as Swaziland. 

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Today, the centre provides services including free primary school for children who have dropped out of school due to poverty, residential care for former street children, and a drop-in school for street children when they first come in off the streets. 

Manzini Youth Care also hosts two vocational training centers for older youth.