Worst Ten Countries by Life Expectancy:
1. Swaziland: 32.63
2. Botswana: 33.74
3. Lesotho: 34.40
4. Zimbabwe: 39.29
5. Liberia: 39.65
6. Mozambique: 39.82
7. Zambia: 40.03
8. Sierra Leone: 40.22
9. Malawi: 41.70
10. South Africa: 42.73
Not coincidentally, Swaziland also has the highest percentage of people infected with HIV or AIDS in the world. Almost 4 out of 10 Swazis are infected.
I was happy to get out of the racially tense South Africa and breathe the fresh air of Swaziland, a tiny landlocked country wedged between South Africa and Mozambique. Swaziland is mountainous and beautiful, with the nicest people on earth. My story was on a school for vulnerable and troubled youth and one schoolgirl in particular, a 9-year-old girl with full-blown AIDS, no parents, and a caretaker who refused to take her to a hospital for treatment. I chose this story not for its uniqueness, but for its ordinariness. Nodogoze’s story is all too common in Sub Saharan Africa. An American volunteer at the Moyeni school named Amy Paderta took a personal interest in the child, convinced her caretaker that AIDS cannot be cured by traditional medicine, and took Nodogoze to the hospital where she is receiving Anti Retroviral Treatment. Hopefully it will not be too late and she will respond to the treatment. I interviewed her doctor who revealed too me that Swazis only get two ARV treatments and if they don’t respond to either, then there is nothing that can be done. AIDS patients in the West have many more options available if the two rounds of ARV treatments are ineffective. I also interviewed Khombe Nkonde, who enlightened me on the cultural obstacles to AIDS awareness in Swaziland and Sub-Saharan Africa. It was a fascinating interview, and it should make for a great piece for Current TV. I’m excited to edit it, and I hope and pray that Nodogoze is responding to treatment. Despite her illness, she was the happiest child and with the most infectious smile.
Once the piece is edited, I will put a link here.
I stayed in a Mabuda dairy farm in the highveld of Eastern Swaziland. Mabuda means “place of Dreams” and it is. I loved it there because I had a huge cottage all to myself and fresh cow milk every morning for my granola.
I also stayed at Sondzela Backpackers, which was awesomely situated inside a game park. I hiked around there a bit and saw some animals.
Ostrich drinking from a local watering hole
Unfortunately I couldn't bring my catapult
I loved Swaziland and went back there a second time. This time I interviewed a Sangoma, a traditional Swazi with doctor and also filmed at the King’s birthday. No stills from this unfortunately but the video I'm now editing will be really cool!! I walk around asking people how many wives the king has and nobody is quite sure. (Answers range from 7-15.)