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Key findings
  • About three in 10 Emaswati (28%) say a member of their household became ill with or tested positive for COVID-19. o More than one-third (36%) say someone in their household lost a job, business, or primary source of income due to the pandemic.
  • About seven in 10 Emaswati (69%) say they have been vaccinated against COVID-19. o Almost one in four say they are “very unlikely” (17%) or “somewhat unlikely” (6%) to try to get vaccinated. o Vaccine hesitancy is particularly high among the youth: 33% of those aged 18-25 say they are unlikely to try to get the shot. o The most commonly cited reasons for vaccine hesitancy are concerns about the vaccine’s safety, about getting a counterfeit vaccine, and about potential negative side effects of the vaccine.
  • A majority (59%) of Emaswati describe the government’s overall performance in managing the COVID-19 pandemic response as “fairly” or “very” good. o However, majorities voice dissatisfaction with the government’s efforts to provide relief assistance to vulnerable households (65%), to keep disruptions to children’s education to a minimum (61%), and to ensure that health facilities were adequately resourced to deal with the pandemic (57%). o Large majorities say that the distribution of COVID-19 relief assistance was unfair (84%) and that “a lot” of the resources intended for the COVID-19 response were lost to corruption (67%).
  • Almost seven in 10 citizens (68%) think the government will not be prepared for the next public health crisis, including 50% who say it will be “very unprepared.” o About six in 10 Emaswati (58%) say the government needs to invest more in preparing for future public health emergencies, even if it means that fewer resources are available for other health services.

The first case of COVID-19 was detected in Eswatini on 14 March 2020. As of 18 October 2023, the country had recorded 75,052 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 1,427 deaths (WHO, 2023). In response to the pandemic, the government declared a national emergency with curfews, school closures, restrictions on non-essential travel, limited sales of alcohol, social distancing, and mandatory wearing of face masks (Government of the Kingdom of Eswatini, 2020). The government also mobilized resources to manage COVID-19 cases with an increased number of hospital intensive-care beds, increased laboratory testing coverage, and improved regional case surveillance (World Bank, 2021).

To facilitate the full reopening of the economy, the government sought to vaccinate 80% of the 1.19 million population. With the support of development partners, including a U.S. $8 million loan from the World Bank to purchase vaccines, the government began vaccinations in March 2021, and a total of 870,205 doses had been administered by 18 October 2023 (WHO, 2023).

The latest Afrobarometer survey in Eswatini shows that while a majority of citizens commend the government’s overall management of the pandemic, they see its efforts to assist vulnerable households as inadequate and believe that many of the resources intended for the COVID-19 response were lost to corruption.

A majority think their government is unprepared for future public health crises and needs to invest more in preparing for such events, even if it means that fewer resources are available for other health services.

Sipho Kunene

Sipho Kunene is the Technical Consultant at QA.