Nope, not Switzerland…Swaziland.

Over the next two year, I will be serving in the Peace Corps focusing on youth development in Swaziland, Africa. This country is almost the size of New Jersey, with a population of approximately 1.1 million. Here are some other quick facts:

The country is landlocked with South Africa to the north, west, and south, and Mozambique to the east.

The country is an absolute monarchy, ruled by King Mswati Ill, who has been king since 1986.  The country was a British protectorate until 1967. It is the only country in the southern hemisphere with an absolute monarchy and the only one in Africa.

One of the first things that I wondered and get asked is what the climate will be like.   Even though it is a tiny country, Swaziland has four distinct geographical areas that have their own unique climate.

  • Highveld: Higher altitude than other parts of the country.  Mountainous area with rivers, waterfalls, and gorges. Temperature is wet and warm during the summer and winters are cold and dry. Western part of the country.
  • Middleveld: Less rain and warmer. East of the Highveld.
  • Lowveld: Hot and dry. East of the Middleveld.
  • Lubombo Plateau: similar in climate to middleveld.  Eastern part of the country.

Unfortunately, I have no idea in what part of the country I will be.  This makes clothes  planning quite a challenge!

Swaziland has the highest prevalence of HIV per capita in the world, 26%. That’s right, 26% percent, or, 1 in 2 of every women is living with HIV.  In 2011, 6,813 adult and children died from AIDS in Swaziland. As a result, Swaziland has a very young population compared to most countries: 1/3 of the population is under 14 years and the life expectancy is 48.7 years (compared to the US at 78.7 years).

This has had a devastating impact on children, putting them at high risk for being orphaned. Estimates are that 104,000 children are orphans or vulnerable to being orphans.